Since the mid-1970s there has been a marked growth in
'non-standard' or 'irregular' forms of work
organisation in Australia and other developed economies (Burgess and
Campbell 1998; Quinlan 1998). This trend has been reflected principally
in an expansion of various forms of precarious employment, such as
casual, sub-contract, temporary and home-based work. It is frequently
claimed by politicians and business representatives that such
'flexible' forms of employment are 'family
friendly', offering workers freedom to accommodate more effectively
the conflicting demands of working hours and domestic responsibilities.
While the effects of precarious employment depend on the form it takes
and the context in which it occurs, it is generally associated with
significant disadvantages for workers (Quinlan 1998). Most precarious
workers would prefer to work longer hours in permanent jobs but may be
significantly disadvantaged in gaining access to more secure employment
(Burgess and Campbell 1998; Quinlan 1998). They are likely to be caught
in a cycle of low earnings, poor non-wage benefits, limited training,
restricted career progression and intermittent unemployment (Brosnan
1996; Burgess and Campbell 1998). A large, and growing, body of evidence
also indicates that precarious work has widespread negative effects on
occupational health and safety (Bohle, Quinlan and Mayhew 2001; Quinlan,
Mayhew and Bohle 2001). Women are more likely to be employed
precariously and are therefore more extensively exposed to these
negative effects (Quinlan 1998; Hall, Harley and Whitehouse 1998).
The growth of precarious employment has been accompanied by a
marked expansion of women' s participation in the paid workforce
(Burgess and Campbell 1998). Many more women with dependent children
have taken up paid employment, providing a strong impetus for working
arrangements that are genuinely compatible with family responsibilities
(Eagle, Miles and Icenogle 1997; Frone and Yardley 1996; O'Driscoll
1996). Due to the gender division of domestic and caring labour,
effective work and family policies have the potential to break down
significant barriers to women's advancement in paid employment
(Whitehouse and Zetlin 1999). Research on conflict between work and
family indicates that its effects are asymmetric, with work intruding
upon family life more than family intrudes upon work (Eagle et al. 1997;
Frone, Yardley and Markel 1997). This role conflict can take the form of
overlapping time demands, incompatible role norms and expectations, and
strain from emotional interference between one domain and the other
(O'Driscoll 1996). Work overload and time commitments are major
predictors of work and family conflict (Frone, et al. 1997). Although
the evidence is not completely consistent, work and family conflict has
been found to have negative effects, directly or indirectly, on job
satisfaction", organisational commitment, perceived quality of work
and family life, and absenteeism (Frone and Yardley 1996;
O'Driscoll 1996). Like precarious employment, conflict between work
and non-work roles can also have substantial negative effects on
psychological and physical health (Baruch, Biener and Barnett 1987;
O'Driscoll 1996; Pisarski, Bohle and Callan 1998). There has been
limited research on the contribution of organisational policies and
practices to conflict levels but inflexibility in relation to working
hours and holidays has been found to contribute (O'Driscoll 1996).
More generally, control over work demands and commitments appears to be
an important factor (Baruch et al. 1987; O'Driscoll 1996).
International policy responses aimed at reducing work-family
conflict have included the International Labour Organisation's
Convention Number 156 on 'Workers with Family
Responsibilities' and the Year of the Family in 1994. In Australia,
legislative changes have provided incentives for employers to introduce
work and family policies, particularly through the introduction of the
Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Affirmative Action (Equal
Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 and its successor, the Equal
Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999. The Workplace Relations
Act 1996 also prohibits discrimination on the basis of family
responsibilities. However, despite these developments, recent Australian
evidence indicates that only a very small proportion of enterprise
agreements contains at least one non-statutory work and family provision
(Whitehouse and Zetlin 1999). Similarly, while a majority of certified
industrial agreements contain 'family-friendly' provisions,
the majority are flexible hours provisions such as accrual of rostered
days off which are not necessarily introduced to facilitate a balance
between work and family responsibilities.
One form of flexible work organisation, job sharing, may offer
genuine benefits to both workers and employers. It has the potential to
serve at least two important goals: 1) to give employees a greater
capacity to coordinate work, family and other commitments and reduce
work/non-work conflict while retaining the benefits of secure
employment; and 2) to provide employers with a form of flexible work
organisation that has wider human resource management benefits. Frone
and Yardley (1996) found that women and those experiencing higher levels
of family to work conflict are most likely to consider job sharing
important (Frone and Yardley 1996). Interestingly, they found no gender
differences in relation to four of the five other family-friendly
policies they examined, including flexitime, compressed work weeks, work
at home and reduced working hours.
Advocates of job sharing claim that employers can benefit from
lower absenteeism, reduced labour costs and improved retention of valued
staff, particularly women (Leighton 1991; Davis 1997). These claims are
consistent with wider evidence that employees with access to other
family-friendly policies display greater organisational commitment and
lower intention to leave (Grover and Crooker 1995; Kandola 1995).
Kandola (1995) describes a major bank in which provision of child-care
led to a decrease in turnover. Training costs were also reduced.
Interestingly, Grover and Crooker (1995) found that improvements in
commitment and intention to leave applied whether or not employees stood
to benefit personally from family-friendly policies. They attribute this
phenomenon to the symbolic role of such policies in demonstrating
broader employer concern for employee interests.
This paper reviews the limited evidence available on job sharing,
focusing principally on experience in Australia. Job sharing is defined
and differentiated from work sharing and other forms of part-time work.
Its potential benefits are then discussed and its growth and prevalence
are examined. After a discussion of management and implementation
issues, a process for maximising the effectiveness of job sharing is
proposed. Finally, avenues for future empirical research are explored.
Defining Job Sharing
Several definitions have been proposed for job sharing (see, for
example, Wood and Wattus, 1987: 105; Work and Family Unit, 1997: 2).
They generally have three common characteristics:
* a specification that a defined full-time job is shared by two or
* a requirement that the arrangement is voluntary for both
employers and employees
* a requirement that job share partners accrue the pay and
conditions of the full-time job on a pro rata basis according to hours
Most definitions specify two employees sharing one job but some
writers discuss more workers sharing one or more jobs. Pro rata benefits
include training and development, performance bonuses, leave and other
entitlements. It has also been suggested that the length of the job
sharing arrangement should be negotiated and agreed between the job
share partners and the employer before it is implemented. Ideally, a
minimum period of operation should be specified with an opportunity for
the job sharers to revert to full-time work.
The Commonwealth Government Work and Family Unit (1997: 2-3)
divides job sharing into three categories: shared responsibility,
divided responsibility and unrelated responsibility. In the shared
responsibility category, job partners are jointly responsible for one
full-time job with no division of duties, an arrangement that is well
suited to jobs in which tasks carry over from day to day. In the divided
responsibility category, the partners are allocated responsibility for
specific facets of the job, generally by project, task or client group.
Although the job share partners perform different tasks, they provide
support for each other to ensure that all tasks associated with the job
are covered on a full-time basis. Unrelated responsibility occurs when
the job share partners work on completely separate tasks and their
positions are merely combined into a full-time post for accounting
purposes. Essentially, they are employed in separate part-time jobs with
no shared responsibilities. Arguably, this arrangement should be viewed
as another form of part-time work, rather than genuine job-sharing, and
it will not be examined in this paper. In fact, we consider that the
principal characteristic differentiating job sharing from part-time work
more generally is the sharing of roles, responsibilities or tasks that
would otherwise be allocated to a smaller number of full-time workers.
Job sharing is sometimes confused with work sharing. However, work
sharing lacks the voluntary character of genuine job sharing. It is used
specifically to create an alternative to retrenchments by spreading a
reduced volume of work across an existing workforce (Blyton and Trinczek
1997). The working hours of most, if not all, affected employees are
reduced. Work sharing is primarily a response to adverse financial or
economic conditions and workers, particularly the most disadvantaged,
are compelled to participate by a desire to retain jobs considered at
risk. It is sometimes presented as a permanent solution to intractable
unemployment, but this is a dubious proposition and work sharing is
unlikely to gain support from workers and trade unions if alternatives
exist (Wood and Wattus 1987; Blyton and Trinczek 1997). In general, work
sharing and job sharing arise from different antecedent events. Whereas
work sharing is prompted by financial stringency and possible
insolvency, genuine job sharing is a more strategic, long-term means of
enabling employees to establish a balance between work and other aspects
of their lives. The benefits that may accrue from job sharing are likely
to depend strongly on genuine voluntary participation and maintenance of
pro rata wages and conditions. If either is lost, the value of the
arrangement may be diminished considerably, particularly for employees.
The potential of job sharing
Job sharers constitute a small, differentiated segment of the
permanent part-time workforce. The most significant difference between
job sharing and other forms of permanent part-time work is that other
part-time positions exist independently without the need for a partner,
whereas job sharers cooperate to support a position required by the
organisation on an ongoing, full-time basis. Through job sharing,
employees who are unable or unwilling to continue working full-time can
maintain labour force participation, as well as benefits and conditions
that would be lost if they transferred to casual or part-time work.
Unlike casual employment, which attracts few of the benefits of
permanent, full-time work and can be terminated on very short notice,
genuine job sharing should provide employees with employment security,
access to training and skills development and other benefits of
full-time work. Further, job sharing usually provides for regular
working hours, in contrast to some other forms of flexible employment
which impose irregular shifts and unpredictable hours that conflict
directly with family responsibilities (Whitehouse and Zetlin 1999).
Employees may choose to job share for many reasons, some of which
may not be related to family responsibilities (Wood and Wattus 1987;
Hall 1993). These reasons include:
* child rearing
* caring for other family members
* dealing with extended periods of family crisis, such as those
caused by death or illness
* bridging to retirement for older workers for whom it is difficult
to secure or retain full-time employment
* providing a first experience of regular employment for young
people, which may be combined with study or other part-time work
* providing a regular, if limited, income for people pursuing other
unpaid or poorly-paid interests.
Working mothers with partners are more likely than women without
partners to stay at home when their children are below 5 years old, to
work part-time when their children are between the ages of 5 and 14, and
then to increasingly work full-time (ABS Catalogues No. 4422.0 and
6224.0). Mothers of children up to 14 years of age are almost nine times
more likely to work part-time for family reasons (34 percent) than
fathers (4 percent) (Work and Family 1997: 6; ABS Catalogues No. 4422.0
and 6224.0). For these women, the voluntary nature of job sharing, its
pro rata benefits and relative security give it advantages over casual
arrangements and more narrowly defined part-time positions. They are
less likely to experience at least some of the disadvantages suffered by
women in precarious employment, including limited control and
discretion, low (pro rata) pay, lack of task diversity, and particularly
dissatisfaction with the amount of work available to them (Hall et al.
Since job share partners cover positions on an ongoing basis, but
individually work part-time, there may be less need for temporary
personnel during vacations, periods of ill-health and long service leave
(Wood and Wattus 1987). The position and the organisation can benefit
from having multiple inputs and perspectives to determine the most
appropriate, efficient and creative ways to perform tasks. Job sharing
may improve an organisation's image in the eyes of current and
prospective employees, and may be particularly important in the
recruitment and retention of women employees (Marshall 1995). However,
organisations can also use job sharing as a means of petty cost cutting,
contravening the principle that job share partners should receive pro
rata benefits and conditions. Since job sharing is voluntary,
re-negotiation of benefits and conditions should only be expected to
ensue if it is mutually acceptable, satisfying the needs of the
organisation and the employee.
The growth of job sharing internationally
Research on job sharing has mainly taken the form of either
individual case studies, which provide rich information but lack the
breadth necessary for general conclusions to be drawn, or industry
surveys that are broad but lack depth. The case studies have
demonstrated that job sharing can be successful across a range of
industries and occupational groups (see Christopher and Perry 1983; Hall
1993; Will 1995). Job sharing emerged in the United States during the
1970s, generally at the instigation of employees seeking more flexible
working hours (Leighton 1991: 285; Bongiomo 1993). It was initially
promoted on the basis that it offered women more opportunities to work
and pursue careers while managing family commitments (Woods and Wattus
1987: 106). In the US, job snaring has been most prevalent and
successful in the insurance industry. For example, Continental
Corporation achieved a 15 percent increase in productivity 15 months
after introducing a series of family-friendly policies, including job
sharing and telecommuting (Bongiorno 1993: 86). A package including job
sharing and other flexible options at Massachusetts Mutual appears to
have contributed to very low turnover and a high level of long-term
commitment to the company (Engler 1996:24-27). Nevertheless, the extent
to which such improvements are specifically attributable to job sharing
is open to debate.
In the United Kingdom, job sharing also appeared during the 1970s.
It was initially promoted in conjunction with equal employment
opportunity policies and backed by public sector trade unions. Although
some trade unions have become advocates of job sharing, citing its
potential to reduce unemployment, others have been sceptical about its
benefits, fearing that employers might exploit job sharing to extend
their control of the workplace (Leighton 1991).
In New Zealand, a case study in the university town of Dunedin
provides an excellent example of extensive job sharing (Hall 1993). In
this case, both public and private sector employers initiated job
sharing, in contrast to the more common tendency for employees to
promote such arrangements. Hall (1993:65-68) argued that the
decentralisation and deregulation of industrial relations in New Zealand
explained the unexpectedly large number of organisations experimenting
with job sharing. If this were correct, then it would have significant
implications for job sharing in Australia, following the shift towards
enterprise bargaining. It has been widely argued (for example, Business
Council of Australia 1989) that if Australian employers provide flexible
working options, organisational performance will improve through the
development of a diverse, more flexible workforce. However, despite its
thirty-year history, the available evidence suggests that job sharing
continues to be regarded as experimental by most Australian
Job sharing in Australia
Several factors appear likely to create pressures for the expansion
of job sharing in Australian workplaces. They include employee
motivation to job share, health concerns arising from work
intensification and work/non-work conflict, the broader pool of skills
and experience provided by job share partners and other potential human
resource management and financial benefits to organisations. These
pressures are associated with a much broader expansion of part-time
employment. Between August 1990 and August 1996, part-time employment in
Australia increased from 20.8 percent to 26.7 percent of employees,
considerably above the OECD average (ABS Cat. No. 6224). It is not clear
how many of these employees were job sharers. There has also been a
dramatic increase in casual employment, rising from 17 per cent of the
total workforce in 1988 to 27 per cent in 1998 (ABS Cat. No. 6202.0).
Job sharing may offer opportunities for more creative, long-term
approaches to employment strategies than merely increasing
Specific information on the incidence and effectiveness of job
sharing in Australia is very limited. The Australian Bureau of
Statistics (ABS), for example, does not collect separate data on job
sharing, simply including it within the larger category of part-time
employment. However, relevant Australian data have become available from
various sources, including the Australian Workplace Industrial Relations
Survey (AWTRS) and the ADAM database compiled by the Australian Centre
for Industrial Relations Research and Training (ACIRRT) (Callus et al.
1991; Morehead et al. 1997; ACIRRT 1997, 1998). Case studies have also
highlighted evidence of the concentration of job sharing amongst female
clerical workers, a group that is in a relatively weak bargaining
position, particularly in a period when many clerical jobs are being
eliminated, for example through contracting out (Lafferty and Roan
2000). The AWIRS data support these findings and give an indication of
the extent of the concentration of part-time work amongst women.
Additionally, they illustrate the degree to which professional and
managerial posts are likely to be excluded from job share arrangements.
Neither the Australian Bureau of Statistics nor several insurance
companies, contacted in 2000 for this paper, reported compiling
statistics on job sharing. In cases where data have been collected, the
available figures differ widely, presenting a major obstacle to accurate
evaluation of the prevalence of job sharing. A survey by Drake Personnel
indicated that 35 percent of a selective sample of employers offered job
sharing (Drake Personnel 1997). This seems extremely optimistic; ACIRRT
(1997) data relating to a similar time period indicated that just 2
percent of Enterprise Agreements registered in the Federal, New South
Wales, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory jurisdictions
included a job-share option. One third of these agreements was
concentrated in the finance industry. However, even here the 28
agreements with job-sharing provisions represented only 9.4 percent of
all enterprise agreements in the industry. We also conducted a further
survey of 100 industrial awards and 100 enterprise agreements from
industries other than finance, spanning the period 1996-2001. Only one
industrial award and two enterprise agreements contained any reference
to job sharing. Of these, only one (the Port Philip Enterprise Agreement
Number 2, 1999-2001) had a clause that could be regarded as substantial.
Evidence from Australian Workplace Agreements also indicates minimal
presence of alternative working arrangements, including job sharing
(Roan, Bramble and Lafferty 2001). This represents a low level of formal
recognition of job sharing as a valid employment option.
While the lack of systematic research makes it difficult to
estimate the prevalence of job sharing in Australia, it does appear to
be considerably lower than in the United States. According to the
Brisbane office of the Australian Insurance Council, many insurers
prefer to use temporary staff to fill gaps. This ad hoc, short-term
orientation is likely to limit the consideration given to the
longer-term benefits of job sharing, such as retention of skilled staff
and improved productivity. An approach to the Brisbane branch of the
Finance Sector Union (FSU) regarding the extent of job sharing within
the industry in Brisbane indicated that, although several insurance
companies have job sharing provisions in their enterprise agreements,
the union did not have specific data on its prevalence. In common with
the ABS, the FSU simply includes job sharing within its permanent
part-time category. However, advice from the union indicated that job
sharing is rarely implemented.
Contrary to arguments that enterprise bargaining would provide
greater flexibility and a broader range of innovative workplace
arrangements, clauses promoting flexible and responsive working
conditions are less common in enterprise agreements than they were in
industrial awards (ADAM Report Number 6: 15). This contrasts with the
New Zealand experience. In Australia, enterprise agreements tend to be
considerably less comprehensive than industrial awards have been
historically. Explicit references to family-friendly working time
arrangements, such as job sharing, are absent from the vast majority of
them (ADAM Report Number 2: 9). Concurrently, industrial awards have
been reduced to minimal 'safety net' documents through
limitation to twenty 'allowable matters' and issues that do
not have an immediate impact on organisational outputs have become
Employers and employees interested in job sharing may encounter
several barriers to its implementation and successful operation. The
following section identifies problems with job sharing arrangements and
proposes strategies to avoid or minimise them.
Management issues and possible responses
The main problems with job sharing can be divided into those that
are principally organisational in nature and those that more
specifically concern the job sharers themselves. The organisational
category may be further divided into problems of planning and initial
implementation and problems arising during the subsequent operation of
the job sharing arrangements. While organisational and individual
problems are interrelated, the following classification should provide a
framework for identifying and avoiding common pitfalls in the
implementation and management of job sharing.
Organisational issues: Planning and implementation
Ad hoc arrangements
'Alternative' working arrangements (such as home-based
work or job sharing) are often introduced on an ad hoc basis. The
absence of coherent policies and procedures can lead to problems being
encountered repeatedly. Detailed planning is essential to clarify and
define how job sharing will operate within the organisation. Many
problems can be dealt with prior to implementation, by enabling all
interested parties to contribute to the development of a mutually agreed
framework for the arrangement (Solomon 1994). A formal company policy on
job sharing developed in this way can provide a frame of reference for
initiation, operation and issue resolution, minimising the likelihood of
later confrontation and conflict. However, genuine management commitment
and a conducive organisational climate are necessary to ensure job
sharing is promoted and implemented. Without such support,
family-friendly policies may fail to deliver organisational benefits or
even have negative effects (Grover and Crooker 1995).
Concentration on lower organisational levels
There is a widespread perception that job sharing is only
appropriate at lower organisational levels. This perception is largely
based on an assumption that job sharing cannot provide sufficient
coherence and continuity of work and decision-making at more senior
levels. However, the case study described by Leighton (1991) illustrates
that job sharing has worked effectively at more senior and complex
levels. Also, interviews conducted by the present authors revealed
successful job-sharing arrangements at senior management level at
Australian Mutual Permanent (AMP).
High visibility of job sharers in the work unit
Especially when job sharing is new, the arrangement and the job
sharers are likely to be very conspicuous, placing additional stress on
the both the arrangement and the employees involved (Leighton 1991: 295;
Work and Family Unit 1997). Training and open discussion about the
rationale for job sharing, especially its potential benefits, with all
affected clients and staff members can reduce this problem from the
Organisational issues: Continuing operation
After commencement of a job sharing arrangement, there may be
difficulties in ensuring continuity, consistency and commitment in areas
such as meeting attendance, work assignment and recreation leave
arrangements. Job sharing requires experimentation, self-evaluation and
self-confidence to enable partners to identify their respective areas of
competence (Christopher and Perry 1983: 12; Leighton 1991: 283-295).
This process should be complemented by careful selection of job sharers
with compatible skills and attitudes, and by appropriate ongoing
training and support for the partners, their managers and colleagues.
Withdrawal of a job share partner
One job share partner may resign or return to full-time work. The
withdrawal of a partner should be addressed in the organisation's
formal job sharing policy, the enterprise agreement or the job
sharers' contracts to ensure that all parties understand their
rights and responsibilities from the outset. Partner replacement, while
probably the best option, may be difficult in practice. Alternatively,
redeployment to another job share arrangement of commensurate status and
remuneration may also be possible (Work and Family Unit 1997:22).
Feedback on performance for job share partners, both individually
and for the combined position, can be problematic. Lack of feedback may
reflect managers' unsubstantiated assumptions about reduced work
and career commitment among job sharers (Leighton 1991: 294; Work and
Family Unit 1997: 30-31). Feedback to job sharers should be provided on
the same formal and informal bases as to full-time staff. Particularly
with new job share arrangements, a system of regular formal and informal
review can be helpful, and should involve job sharers, managers and
other team members (Work and Family Unit 1997: 39). Clients, managers
and trade union representatives may provide valuable feedback and
assistance in ensuring that the job share arrangements achieve
acceptance and operate efficiently.
Issues for job share partners
Finding a suitable partner
Finding an appropriate person with whom to job share is often
difficult for employees (Hurt 1992), and is best achieved through the
organisation maintaining a central register of employees interested in
entering a job share arrangement. For example, AMP maintains a workplace
diversity register, which provides a useful means of matching potential
job share partners (enterprise agreement, 1997: 19-20).
Job sharers with different skills and aspirations
Disparities in skills, qualifications or expectations may make
career advancement more likely for one partner than the other (Leighton
1991: 292) and cause problems with job roles and descriptions,
remuneration and the willingness of one partner to remain in the job
sharing position. These problems are most likely to arise under an
'unrelated duties' job share arrangement. In most cases,
employees with significantly different skill levels should not job
share, but rather occupy two separate part-time positions.
Tensions between job-share partners
Conflict can emerge between job share partners as a result of
ineffective communication or perceived inequities in workload or effort
(Leighton 1991: 294-295). These issues are best addressed at the job
design stage so that the partners and the relevant managers are aware of
their mutual obligations and the need for effective communication. For
example, a review of several insurance industry enterprise agreements
revealed that they require job share partners to ensure that important
information is communicated at hand-overs. This can be achieved in a
variety of ways, such as allowing for an overlap of working time between
the job sharers and use of e-mail, voicemail, 'to do' lists
and file notes.
Training and development opportunities
Some job sharers are reluctant to request training and staff
development, or volunteer for it, feeling that their working hours are
already limited and training will result in further lost work time (Work
and Family Unit 1997: 28). As a consequence, job sharers maybe
disadvantaged in comparison to full-time staff. They may be unable to
develop new skills, becoming relatively deskilled. Training and
development programs should be made equally available to job sharers and
directly publicised to them.
Clearly, job sharers must be able to afford to live on reduced pay.
In relation to this issue, ABS data indicate that only a quarter of
part-time and casual employees would prefer to work full-time (ABS
Catalogue Number 6224.0). Although the majority of part-time and casual
workers may not aspire (at least in the short term) to full-time
employment, it is advisable to encourage all prospective job sharers to
examine their budgets, and assess whether part-time employment is
genuinely financially viable, prior to the commencement of the
Undermining of voluntary participation
Pressure toward involuntary participation is most likely to occur
when an employer makes continuing employment contingent upon taking up a
job sharing position. In general, individual employees will be poorly
placed to negotiate and maintain equitable conditions and benefits and
may, in such circumstances, work longer than the hours formally agreed
in an effort to increase employment security. For this reason, effective
trade union involvement is valuable from the employee's point of
view, providing assistance to ensure that job sharing is strictly
voluntary and working conditions are maintained. Unions can also play a
key role in monitoring and reviewing working conditions for job sharers.
The discussion above suggests that effective liaison between
management, staff and trade unions should be established from the outset
to ensure that job sharing arrangements optimally satisfy the needs of
the job share partners, other affected employees and the employer. A
clear, coherent process for managing the implementation and operation of
job sharing arrangements should reduce the incidence of the problems
Drawing on the points made above, the following six steps are
proposed as a broad framework for managing the introduction of job
1. Define a formal job sharing policy with effective input from
management, employees and unions. This policy should help to eliminate
the problem of ad hoc job sharing arrangements, through the integration
of job sharing with organisational goals and employee needs.
2. Communicate and explain the job sharing policy extensively
within the organisation and seek feed back. Initial concerns about job
sharing can be addressed through identification and discussion of
associated expectations and responsibilities. Stressing the voluntary
nature of job sharing can reinforce its status as an alternative, rather
than aberrant, form of work arrangement.
3. Establish mechanisms for applications, position listing and
approval of job sharing arrangements and create a register of potential
job sharers. Such initiatives should facilitate the processes of finding
job share partners, matching partners with compatible skills and
aspirations, and locating replacement job partners.
4. Provide appropriate training to job sharers, co-workers and
managers prior to, and during, implementation. In conjunction with
previous steps, this should provide the basis for the coordinated
introduction and management of job sharing. It should highlight methods
for dealing with problems such as the high visibility of job sharers in
work units and ensure that job sharers do not become deskilled through
lack of appropriate training and staff development.
5. Collect ongoing feedback and monitor effectiveness on an
individual and organisational basis. This step should alleviate problems
attributable to insufficient feedback and ensure that difficulties in
job sharing arrangements are identified and resolved as early as
6. Perform a regular formal review of job sharing policies and
practices. This should evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of
job sharing as a long-term working arrangement, for both employers and
employees, within the specific organisational context.
Directions for research
At present, due to a paucity of rigorous research, it is
unadvisable to draw firm conclusions about the prevalence, impact or
management of job sharing. Nevertheless, the available evidence does
suggest that job sharing offers potential benefits and consequently it
warrants further research.
Certainly, more systematic and sophisticated investigation is
required before its effects are firmly established and the issues
surrounding its introduction and management are well understood.
The shortage of compelling research reflects, at least in part,
real barriers to investigation of job sharing in Australia. Most sources
of population-level data have yet to separate job sharing from other
forms of part-time work and consequently it is not completely clear
where it is concentrated, in terms of industries, occupations or
organisational levels. Sampling and other methodological problems have
also hampered research focused on organisations, worksites or individual
job sharers. Few organisations appear to have formal job sharing
policies and even fewer seem to have implemented or promoted them. Even
if job sharing is formalised and supported, the number of employees in a
single organisation actually participating will generally be low. It is
therefore difficult to organise access to samples large enough to
support sophisticated statistical analysis of surveys or to promote
confidence in the validity of findings. This constraint is perhaps one
reason why small-sample case study methodology is so common.
Unfortunately, the research designs employed in most studies to date
have not been sophisticated enough to convincingly demonstrate the
effects of job sharing and differentiate them from those of alternative
forms of 'non-standard' employment, such as permanent
Several steps could be taken to improve research methodology and
strengthen understanding of job sharing in Australia. In
population-level research, specific data on job sharing should be more
widely collected to facilitate comparisons with other categories of
non-standard work. For example, it would be valuable if the Australian
Bureau of Statistics separated job sharing from other forms of part-time
work in future work surveys. Greater differentiation of non-standard
employment categories is justified on the grounds that available
evidence suggests they vary in their impact on work conditions and other
outcomes for workers (Burgess and De Ruyter 2000; Hall et al. 1998). For
example, a recent review of international evidence indicates that
temporary work has much more consistently negative effects on
occupational health and safety than part-time work (Quinlan et al.
2001). Reliable data on the prevalence and distribution of job sharing
would also greatly assist researchers attempting to generate larger
samples in studies conducted at the organisational, worksite or
Research focusing on organisations or individual job sharers could
be strengthened in several ways. Empirical work to date has been almost
exclusively cross-sectional, with simple case studies constituting the
dominant methodology. A greater diversity of methods, and more rigorous
research designs, would generate more compelling evidence concerning
both the effects of job sharing and the management issues that surround
it. More structured qualitative research could make an important
contribution. For example, structured exploratory interview methods,
such as convergent interviewing (Dick 1990), would provide an excellent
means of developing understanding of issues from the points of view of
job sharers and managers. Overall, more intense qualitative research
would prove particularly valuable for developing understanding of
participants' motives for taking up job sharing, the organisational
processes surrounding its implementation and the benefits and
disadvantages as they are perceived by workers and managers.
Such research would also ensure that subsequent quantitative
research was effectively grounded in the experience of those involved in
job sharing programs as well as the more abstract and theoretical
concerns of researchers. Questionnaire surveys, with sufficiently large
and well-targeted samples, could be used to more clearly demonstrate the
relationships between key variables. For example, the many potential
associations between variables such as organisational level, age,
gender, domestic responsibilities, career progression during and after
the job share, training opportunities, management strategies, family
impacts and other non-work benefits or disadvantages of job sharing have
yet to be thoroughly evaluated. Common method variance may be a problem
with cross-sectional surveys based entirely on self-report data (Grover
and Crooker 1995). Consequently, more factual measures, such as turnover
or career progression data from organisational records, should also be
included when available. In any case, if surveys and other quantitative
methodologies are to be implemented effectively, it will be necessary to
carefully define and operationalise all variables under investigation.
Again, well-designed qualitative research could assist significantly in
this process. However, if possible, established and validated measures
of relevant attitudinal, health, domestic and organisational variables
should also be employed. Measures of more specific correlates or
outcomes of job sharing may nevertheless have to be developed and
Once critical variables have been satisfactorily operationalised,
quasi-experimentation may provide a valuable means of demonstrating
cause and effect relationships (see Cook and Campbell 1979).
Longitudinal studies with measures taken before, during and after the
completion of job sharing will provide the best test of the effects of
job sharing on both individuals and organisations (Frone and Yardley
1996). Collection of data from suitable control groups will assist to
differentiate the effects of job sharing from those of permanent
part-time work or less secure forms of 'flexible' employment,
such as temporary or casual work. Complex statistical techniques, such
as structural equation modelling, may be required to describe the
interrelationships between key variables. Ultimately, however, it is
most likely that a range of studies employing different methodologies
will provide the most convincing and robust body of evidence.
Within the limitations of existing knowledge, job sharing appears
to offer organisations one means to respond constructively to pressures
for more family-friendly work practices. It may facilitate a more
effective balance between work and other commitments for employees while
also delivering benefits for employers. In comparison with many other
alternatives to full-time employment, genuine job sharing offers the
promise of two significant benefits for employees. The first is that it
should be voluntary and initiated by the employee. The second is that it
should provide a level of security equal to that of a full-time position
with the same conditions of employment, including pro rata benefits.
More broadly, it may enable employees who have often made substantial
investments in careers and skills development to maintain a viable
position within the workplace, from which they can resume full-time
employment when other commitments allow.
While it is true that permanent part-time work may offer similar
conditions, job sharing may be acceptable to employers when individual
part-time jobs may not, such as when cooperation and coordination are
required across the full working week. Conversely, job sharing may
present a greater challenge for managers and employees than other forms
of part-time work by demanding successful management of a relationship
with a job share partner (or partners). In fact, despite encouraging
evidence, there are still many open empirical questions regarding the
advantages and disadvantages of job sharing in comparison to other
reasonably secure forms of non-standard work, such as permanent
part-time, or even more precarious employment, such as casual or
Employees may seek to job share for a variety of reasons. The most
frequently discussed, and probably the most common, is to meet domestic
commitments, principally child rearing or caring for other dependants.
However, other economic and lifestyle considerations may lie behind an
employee's wish to job share, such as securing an adequate income
while pursuing study or poorly remunerated creative work. The conditions
that make job sharing attractive to workers may change for life-cycle
reasons. For older workers who are unable to find full-time employment,
job sharing may simply be a more desirable option than long periods of
casual work or unemployment. Many workers with young children may well
wish to return to full-time employment within the same organisation when
the children begin school. In these circumstances, job sharing may
provide a relatively brief, but important, hiatus in a full-time career
for the worker that allows the organisation to retain valuable
experience. It may be one of several options, including
'standard' part-time work or home-based work and, again, more
empirical evidence is required to demonstrate its benefits and
disadvantages for these different groups of workers.
The available evidence, especially from overseas, suggests that job
sharing can also deliver benefits to organisations. North American
research indicates that it is most prevalent in the insurance and
financial sectors, but is not restricted to these industries. Other
evidence suggests job sharing need not be confined to the lowest levels
of organisations and can be implemented successfully for professionals
and senior managers. Employers who facilitate job sharing may achieve a
variety of benefits. The most tangible are likely to be cost reductions,
such as lower labour turnover and the capacity to cover for illness or
other absences without hiring temporary staff. Several less tangible
benefits may also emerge, including improved morale and an enhanced
ability to recruit and retain skilled employees, even those who may
never exercise the job sharing option. Real costs of job sharing (for
example, increased payroll costs and other on-costs) must be balanced
against these potential benefits.
Despite its potential benefits, job sharing is uncommon in
Australia. Its neglect in awards and agreements has important
ramifications in the context of changes to legislative provisions under
the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999. The Act,
which replaced the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for
Women) Act 1986, has reduced regulatory and reporting requirements on
organisations, in the name of providing greater flexibility for
employers. Consequently, there is an increased need for awards and
agreements to achieve tangible equity outcomes. A potentially important
avenue for the achievement of work and family goals is presently
overlooked as bargaining tends to focus on 'bottom line'
issues such as pay and employee numbers.
The neglect of job sharing has occurred despite unions and some
employer associations, most notably the Australian Chamber of Commerce
and Industry (ACCI), lending public support to it (see ACCI 2000).
Employers' resistance may reflect a disposition to focus on
immediate costs over longer-term benefits or simply a desire to avoid
perceived management problems associated with the introduction of job
sharing. As with other significant changes in work organisation, clear
and appropriate policies in conjunction with well-grounded
implementation processes are essential to deal with such issues. This
paper has highlighted problems that may often arise and proposed
strategies to deal with them. Awareness of potential problems, and
knowledge of appropriate processes to resolve them, should make
successful implementation more likely. However, considerably more
rigorous research is required before the impact and management of job
sharing is thoroughly understood.
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George Lafferty *
Philip Bohle **
Catherine Giudice *
* School of Management, University of Queensland, ** School of
Industrial Relations and Organisational Behaviour, University of New