Bargaining for work–family benefits in the UK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)


Using data from the Labour Research Department's Payline bank of collective agreements, and drawing on case studies of the (male-dominated) rail transport and (female-dominated) food retail sectors, this article analyses agreement on enhanced work–family benefits, focusing on maternity and paternity leave and pay, and Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and pay. The opportunity structure for bargaining, consisting of internal and external factors encouraging or facilitating union engagement with work–family measures, has developed unevenly in the British case, resulting in only a small number of agreements overall. Collectively agreed provision offers significant benefits mainly for maternity leave and pay. The analysis finds evidence of a dynamic of bargaining whereby those organisations with enhanced maternity pay continued to extend provision and to introduce new enhancements for fathers through paternity leave, but also identifies the limits of this dynamic due to complexity of policy design. The article argues that trade unions can coordinate bargaining strategy even in the absence of formal mechanisms for doing so, but that local strategy depends on the external opportunity structure at all levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-146
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Industrial Relations
Issue number1
Early online date1 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank staff at the Labour Research Department for assistance with access to the database of agreements. The author received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.


  • Collective bargaining
  • paid parental leave
  • trade unions
  • women and work
  • work and family

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Industrial relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Bargaining for work–family benefits in the UK'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this