Women in work and the labour market

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According to Savitt and Bottorf (1995), women play a pivotal role in economic development, both within and beyond the home. Women have come a long way during the past century: Although historically men's careers were built on women's exclusion, women have now succeeded in entering management and the professions in significant numbers (X2the corporate career 19xx, p.78). Globalisation has led to this unprecedented demand for women workers in certain key sectors, such as manufacturing, textile and new tertiary outsourced service sectors such as call centres and financial services.

Mauritius, being a democratic country, upholds equality and respect for human rights. The past decades have seen great advances in terms of commitments to women's rights, both nationally and globally. Amendments were made to the Constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sex. Women in Mauritius are assured of equality of access to education, employment, health and social services.

However, the laws are not always matched by actions on the ground. In too many countries, even where the constitution or laws prohibit it, many women still face discrimination at work in terms of pay or career progression.

Women, work and the labour market

The structure of the labour market in Mauritius has evolved over time, with the advent of fundamental structural changes in the Mauritian economy over the last 30 years. The rapid development of the manufacturing sector in the seventies and eighties; the emergence of new sectors, namely in the field of tourism and financial services by the end of the eighties and early nineties, have contributed to the demand for high skilled labour. This was further accentuated by the growth in high value added services such as the ICT sector.

Table XX below illustrates the estimated size and composition of the labour force in Mauritius as at 1st quarter 2009.

Table XX: Working population of Mauritius as at 1st Quarter 2009

Source: CSO

The total labour force for the quarter was estimated to be 562900, of which around 36% comprises of women. The number of unemployed persons stood at 44900 (17800 males and 27100 females). The unemployment rate, defined as the percentage of the labour force that is unemployed, worked out to 8%. However, it is noted that although the majority of the labour force is male, it is mostly women who face unemployment at 13% compared to 5% of men.

Although women constitute 51% of the population of Mauritius and are equally represented at all educational level, they remain secondary citizens in all spheres- political, social and economic. The recent Global Gender Gap report 2008 by the World Economic Forum, ranked Mauritius 95th among 130 countries worldwide, in terms of Gender equality, 90th in relation to economic empowerment and 103rd in economic participation and opportunity

Women and industralisation

The Industrial Revolution began in England in the eighteenth century and quickly spread across Europe and North America (http://www.teacherlink.org). New technology and inventions transformed an agricultural and commercial way of life into a modern industrial society. Changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution revolutionized families and lifestyles as the factory system drew workers away from the rural family economy to urban areas. Industrialization changed the locus of work from home to factory.

The situation of women was transformed in many ways. Industrial Revolution changed gender roles which stereotyped men as 'bread winners' and women as home makers and the number of women in the industrial labour force started growing, especially after 1870. Women provided a flexible, cheap and adaptive workforce for factories and sweatshops, and had feminine skills associated with some of the most rapidly expanding consumer goods industries at the forefront of industrialisation such as textiles, pottery and clothing. The goods that they were producing were often associated with domestic work.

Later, social and economic developments were the critical agents that changed the nature of women's work. Whereas men had previously performed teaching and clerical tasks, employers found they could hire women for these occupations-at lower salaries. Differences in pay between the sexes were based largely on the assumption that men had to be paid enough to support a family. Moreover, most women who entered the workforce in the United States before World War II were single and did not have families to support; hence, they could be paid lower wages. This inequality in men's and women's pay scales, even for equal work, still exists today.

Women and work

Throughout history women have not been thought of as doing actual work. When they are actually getting paid for their work, it was very little. They were employed "in the lowest paid, least stable, and most unrewarding occupations. The type of work that women could obtain was that of "unskilled, low status, poorly paid, seasonal, and irregular.

While the UN Decade for Women (1976-1995) did much to redress the global visibility of women and to construct a more balance picture of international development, women still remain out of focus in the overall development picture (Nemdharry 2005).

The employment-to-population ratio (Figure) indicates the extent to which economies use the productive potential of men and women: 60 to 80 per cent of all men, but only 20 to 65 per cent of all women are employed, indicating serious gender gaps across all regions. The female employment-to-population ratio further dips to 34 and 22 per cent, respectively, in South Asia and the Middle East and North America (UNIFEM 2008, p. 119).

Figure 1. Employment to population ratio by sex, across the world

Source: UNIFEM Report 2008

Across all regions, employment-to-population ratios are significantly higher for men compared to women, with a gender gap that ranges from 15% in developed regions to more than 40% in South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.

Historically, women have always had more diverse career trajectories than men. Women have been more likely than men to leave and re-enter the labour force, often to bear and rear children (Long and Porter 1984, cited Macdermid and Williams 2001, p.306). Moreover, Bielby (1992) argued that men and women in the paid labour force differ somewhat in their level of commitment to work. This can be attributed to differences in family responsibilities and constraints.

However, over the years, the attitude towards work has changed. Mattis (1990) stated that 'women have demonstrated their interest in and commitment to lifelong careers rather than intermittent jobs.' According to Macdermind and Williams (2001), today women aspiring to successful professional and managerial careers are increasingly eschewing the traditional organisational career.

Work, women and family

Contemporary research on connections between work and family has been influenced by functionalist scholarship from the 1950s. Scholarship dominating that era argued that separation of labor in the household and workplace was both necessary and appropriate in order to minimize competition between the sexes, thereby sustaining famly cohesion and minimizing imbalance in the traditional locus of family power (Blood & Wolfe 1960, cited Bielby 1992, p.287).

Scholars now widely recognize the mutual influence between the spheres of work and family. In numerous surveys, one of the strongest themes that emerged was the importance of family. Despite, or perhaps because of, the rising prevalence of dual-income families and long work hours, family is the desired focus for most. Given an extra hour each day, or an extra day each week, family is

Both paid employment and family responsibilities are a part of many people's lives. However, a study by Ismail and Ibrahim found that "the traditional division of labour leads people to expect domestic responsibilities to be the woman's primary role..." (2008, p.54). As such, successfully balancing paid work with family responsibilities remains a major challenge for a large number of working women.

Role Conflict

It has long been acknowledged that women at work face a unique set of challenges in balancing career with the responsibility of running the home and family. In a survey by Ismail and Ibrahim (2007), it was revealed that working whilst having family responsibilities was considered the most significant barrier by career women to advance.

There is universal agreement that in most, if not all, developing countries the traditional role of women is primarily for the reproduction of the family and caring for other family members. As long as the society continues to emphasise a woman's basic role as that of mothering, working women will face role struggles (Lee Siew Kim and Choo Seow Ling 2001). As married working women, many women entrepreneurs have to assume multiple roles in the family in addition to their careers. They must bear major responsibility for household chores and childcare. These responsibilities give rise to work-family conflict, which becomes an obstacle in managing their business.

Women often feel they have to make choices between a work and family life, as the demands of being effective in both areas are difficult to achieve (Carr 2002, p.17). These two distinct areas of responsibility are often seen as being in competition with each other. As a result, Carr (2002, p.17) revealed that women feel both guilty being at work and guilty being at home.

Women and the glass ceiling

Despite the many achievements of women, women are still not getting the credit they deserve in one very important place: at work. It is observed that women have been in the labour market in most developed and developing countries for more than 20 years (Ismail and Ibrahim 2007, p.51). However, in the world of work, Schein (2001) finds that barriers to women in management exist worldwide. Their share of management positions remains relatively low.

Until the late 1970's, women remained virtually invisible as managers and entrepreneurs (Lee Siew Kim and Choo Seow Ling 2001, p.204). During the 1980's, the issues of gender differences in careers came to prominence (The Corporate Career, p.80). At the same time, the underrepresentation or marginal status of women in senior management became a subject of debate. The term 'glass ceiling' was coined in the mid-1980's (Wall Street Journal 1986, cited The Corporate Career, p.80 ) to denote a set of invisible barriers obstructing women's promotion opportunities in management and impeding the upward mobility of women beyond the middle levels.

Culture theory has also been used to explain some of the dynamics and mechanisms of organisational behaviour and how organisational culture influences the practices and values of organisations. The policies, procedures, and work settings that women face as they attempt to pursue a managerial career are known to constitute major barriers to advancement (Burke, 1997; Burke and McKeen, 1992; Morrison and Von Glinow, 1990; Morrison et al., 1987, cited Anita Ramgutty-Wong 2000 ).

Although there exist written policies for equal opportunity, organisational processes still block the progression of a woman's career. The effect of these gendered organisational processes, according to X2 the coprporate career (19xx), is to mairginalise women and ultimately exclude them from the most senior management levels.

The pressure on companies to acknowledge the importance of a balanced workforce has, indeed, brought about changes in the area but yet, the figures still indicate a low percentage of women at senior management level in almost all countries around the world.

Women as leaders

What comes to the mind of people on thinking about leadership are images of powerful individuals who command victorious armies, shape the events of nations, or direct corporate empires. Researchers have found that people think "male" when they think "leader". (Charmagne 2004).

Section 2 :Flexibility/Alternative work practice


Flexibility will be the hallmark of the 1990's, stated Mattis (1990).

In the discourse on modern management, the concept of flexibility is often mentioned as a desirable characteristic of both firms and employees, frequently in a normative sense. That is, firms should be flexible, or employees should be flexible.

However, the origins of flexibility in HRM cam be traced back to 1970's. Flexible production system occurred when mass production system became too rigid for the new economy. There was a transition from mass production to flexible production from "Fordism" to "Post Fordism" in Cariat's formulation.

Standard working in the new economy is increasingly being replaced by non-standard or flexible working. The traditional work schedule of the Mauritian employee has long been 9 am to 4 pm (public sector) and 9 am to 5 pm (private sector), Monday through Friday. However, this accepted employment pattern is being questioned in many fields. New patterns for longer, as well as shorter, working days are beginning to emerge (Mattis 1990, p.135). Hence, the need for organisations to be 'flexible'.

What is flexibility?

Flexibility can be defined as the ability to adapt in a reversible manner to changes as and when needed. With reference to what Piore and Sabel said in 1984, flexibility can be defined as the organizational ability to reorganize its production process through a reorganization of its factors of production, facilitated by new computerized technology.

Flexibility has two basic dimensions: flexibility in employment and flexibility in work (Pollert 1988 and 1991, cited Smith 1995). Flexibility in employment is a labour market concept. As markets and the business cycle undergo changes, managers find it desirable to shift the size of their work forces. Flexibility in work refers to flexibility within the firm or within the production process. Coupled with more flexible forms of work organization, such as working time, group and team approaches, new technologies enable a firm to produce variations of products, even different products, cheaply in small batches. Thus it is possible for firms to respond easily and quickly to rapidly changing markets.

Origins of the flexible debate

Origins of the flexible debate date back to the 1970's and 1980's. In the 1950's and 1960's, efficiency was the most important criterion for organisations. This development was dictated by a major change in technology: a far-reaching transition from craff work to mass production (Toffler1985, cited Volberda 1998). Efficiency was achieved principally by standardisation. Then in the 1970's, quality became an additional important criterion. Customers became more quality oriented. They required higher levels of 'service' and more 'value for their money' (Volberda 1998). Excellence became the sole way to distinguish an organisation from its competitors.

Then, it was discovered that flexibility was a necessary complement to efficiency and quality. The flexibility debate emerged as a result of changes which were experienced by the Western European economies during that particular period. These changes lead to the destabilisation of the stable pattern of economic growth and living standard that was prevalent in the 1950's and 1960's. The concept of flexibililty emerged as a key element in debates over how Western Europe should respond to change (Beardwell and Holden 1997, p.104).

Much of the debate about flexibility initially focused on the existence of new approaches at the level of industrial society (X1 199x, p.37). For some years, the notion of managing flexibility through the use of strategies of labour utilisation was debated around the concept of the flexible firm, advanced by Atkinson (1984).

Nowadays, flexibility has many meanings. Igor Ansoff (1965, cited X1 199x, p.36) suggested that firms need external and internal flexibility to cope with unforeseeable contingencies. Ansoff (1965, cited X1 199x, p.36) related flexibility to 'the maxim of not putting all of one's eggs in a single basket'. Concerning internal flexibility, he stated that this issue 'is as old as business itself...it seeks to provide a cushion for response to catastrophe'. Volberda (1998, cited X1 199X, p. 36) saw flexibility 'as an organisational potential, ceated by flexible configuration strategies and broad strategic schemas'. Flexibility came to be also perceived as a way 'to attract and retain good employees in a labour market that is steadily becoming more competitive' (Olmsted and Smith 1989).

The Atkinson's "flexible firm model"

Since early 1980's, UK debates on the flexibility of work and organization have centered on the model of the flexible firm. This model was put forward by John Atkinson and others (Atkinson 1984; Atkinson and Meager 1986; NEDO 1986), the model claims that firms were increasingly seeking and achieving greater flexibility from their workforce. At the heart of Atkinson's (1984) innovative model of the flexible firm lies the segmentation of the labour force into 'core' and 'peripheral' groups. Core workers constitute a vital element of the company's workforce. They come from the primary labour market and they are multi-skilled. Peripheral workers on the other hand, are subject to variations in working hours and to layoff as required. The peripheral group can be divided into different segments. The first peripheral group consists of workers from the secondary labour market, but they are still internal to the organisation. For example, those employed on longer-term contracts do have some degree of permanence. They are contingent workers required to deal with specialist activities like computer programming and marketing surveys. The second peripheral group is made up of people who find it difficult to integrate internal labour markets. They come from external labour markets and their career prospects are limited. Examples include public subsidy trainees, part-timers, short term contractual and distance workers. Their work is basically routine and low-skilled. Beyond the second peripheral group, there are individuals who are clearly external to the organisation. They can be employed by another employer or they may be in self employment. Examples of tasks that fall in this category are catering, security and cleaning. Atkinson identified three forms of flexibility: functional, numerical and financial flexibility.

Figure 3. Atkinson's Flexible Firm Model


Several critics have been levelled against the flexible firm model. Atkinson's model research is said to be biased because it is based only on large firms and neglects small firms. It also overlooks the presence of trade unions. The emphasis is from collectivism to individualism, from management-union relations to management-employee relations. Moreover, there is lack of clarity about the model's purpose: is it a description, prescription, or prediction? The problem with the "flexible firm" model is that it over-emphasizes management's co-ordinated pursuit of flexibility. It is almost as if flexibility is an end in itself, whereas flexibility is only one managerial concern and cannot be abstracted from its other goals and areas of interest (Maclnnes 1987; Pollert 1988 and 1991, cited Smith 1995).

Types Of flexibility

In general, we can distinguish between five types of flexibility:






Functional Flexibility

Functional flexibility relates to am employer's ability to use labour across functional boundaries (Reilley 2000). It refers to polyvalence. Functional flexibility can be further subdivided into two categories. Horizontal flexibility is where employees can undertake a wider range of tasks at the same broad skill level. Vertical flexibility relates to employees being able to take on tasks at a higher or lower skill level than that for which they have been recruited. Workers may be redeployed quickly between different tasks, to match changing workloads.

Numerical Flexibility

Peripheral workers provide a firm with numerical flexibility whereby employers use 'non-standard' contracts of employment to enable the level of labour inputs to be adjusted to meet fluctuation in output. Peripheral workers do not share the benefits of the core staff. Numerical flexibility is when employers use non-standard types of employment to match labour supply to product and service demand and to parcel out work in a way that avoids exposure to the risk of 'over-staffing'. Employers achieve numerical flexibility when employees work part-time, fixed-term, zero hours, annual hours or from home.

Financial Flexibility

Financial flexibility is the firm's ability to adjust employment costs to reflect the state of demand and supply in the external labour market. In a broader sense, financial flexibility relates to a firm's ability to assess and restructure its financing with low transaction costs. Financially flexible firms are in a position to prevent financial distress due to negative shocks. Byoun, S. (2007, p.2) defines financial flexibility as "the degree of capacity and speed at which the firm can mobilize its financial resources to take reactive, preventive and exploitive actions to maximize the firm value. A firm's level of financial flexibility depends on size, industry as well as the strategic decisions made by top management.

Locational Flexibility

Locational flexibility allows work to be carried out away from the traditional workplace by using mobile or partly home-based staff, full outworkers or teleworkers (Reilly 2000). Examples are freelancers who are self-employed and work for numerous clients rather than a single employer. They offer numerical as well as locational flexibility.

Temporal Flexibility

Temporal flexibility involves varying working hours to achieve a more effective deployment of labour to meet business requirements.

Why flexible working?

Today flexibility is omnipresent. The main reasons underlying the need for flexibility at work are increased market volatility and uncertainty, intensification of global competition, flatter organisation structures and the acceleration of technological change.

Caims and Beech (1999, p.2) pointed out that literature on new workplace concepts in support of flexible working highlights a number of recurring driving forces for change, which commonly include both employee-centred and organisation-focused drivers.

According to Goulding and Kerslake (1996) and Kerslake and Goulding (1997), increasing flexibility in the labour market has become a necessity, and is labour market driven as much as by the needs of employees to reconcile various non-work commitments. They argue that there are four main reasons for the existence of flexible work in organisations. These are to manage variable workloads, ensure cover for weekend hours, retain valued members of staff, and finally in response to employee demand. Others such as Blair (2000) approach flexibility in terms of personal career choice, referring to changing work paradigms for information professionals.

Galin (1991, cited X1 199x, p.40) gave the following reasons for the growing international need for non-standard or atypical work:

To increase productivity and competitiveness

To adapt organisations to accelerated technological changes

Increasing employment opportunities

Improving the ability of organisations to cope with peak workloads

Adapting to flunctuations in availability of workers

To meet workers' aspirations

Moreover, Mattis (1990) stated that the increased presence and advancement of women in corporations have already brought increased pressure for flexibility in work schedules and for accommodating alternative work site arrangements.

New work organisations and the quest for flexibility

Flexibility initiatives are a growing phenomenon in organisations and firms. The dramatic changes of recent decades in the environment in which companies operate -arising in part from an intensification of international competition and rapid changes in technology-have engendered a lively debate about the strategies that are now required for businesses to succeed (Gittleman, Horrigan & Joyce 1998).

Flexible work options have become a critical tool for retaining valued customers, as increasing numbers of employees seek these options (Kropf 1999, p. 178). Organizations have differed in their responses to pressures to become more flexible: Some have taken the "high road" and adopted high performance work organizations and functional flexibility, whereas others have taken a "low road" and sought to cut costs by treating workers as disposable (Kalleberg 2003).

Mattis (1990) stated that "organisations that are ready to respond to the drive for flexibility will be best positioned to attract and retain quality employees in today's tight labour market." Indeed, employees consistently rank flexible schedules high on their list of desired benefits; employers who are reluctant to offer these popular perks will find themselves falling short in the bidding wars for talent (Meisinger 2007).

Work-Life Balance

The concept of work-life balance recognises that employees want the right to work as well as time for individual pursuits such as contributing to the community, participating in leisure activities, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, studying and being active family members.

In recent years, organizations have introduced a number of family-responsive policies and benefits, in large part, due to the increasing number of women in the workplace (Milliken, Dutton and Beyer, 1991; Rousseau, 1995; Schwartz, 1989).

Higgins, Duxbury and Irving (1992) found that conflict between work and family roles diminish employees' perceptions of quality of work life and the quality of family life which, in turn, can impact organizational outcomes such as productivity, absenteeism and turnover. They suggest that organizations could possibly reduce work-family conflicts by offering alternative work arrangements.

Organizational responses to work-family conflict are an increasing priority for management (Ornstein and Isabella 1993, cited Scandura and Lankau 1997, p.377). More and more woman are joining the workforce since it is becoming a strategic theme to employ women as the ongoing challenge of finding and keeping talented employees will become even more crucial in the near future (Ismail and Ibrahim 2007, p.52). However, because primary responsibility for homemaking and childcare tasks falls on women (Shelton and John, 1996), female employees face particularly strong work-family conflicts (Greenhaus and Parasuraman, 1999). Firms employing relatively large percentages of female employees are more dependent upon them and more likely to adopt extensive work-family programs as a result (Goodstein, 1994; Ingram and Simons 1995, cited konrad and Mangel 2000, p.1229).

The Psychological Contract

The notion of the "psychological contract" was first coined by Argyris (1960) to refer to employer and employee expectations of the employment relationship, i.e. mutual obligations, values, expectations and aspirations that operate over and above the formal contract of employment (Smithson and Lewis 2003). Rousseau (1995) suggests that psychological contracts (both written and unwritten) are pervasive in organisations.

The changing dynamics and experience within the workplace have led to a questioning of the nature of the employment contract. There is a clear movement from the long-term, stable employment commitment that was much in evidence in the post-war period. Today, employees demand more from the psychological contract (Stredwick and Ellis 1998, p. 279).

The psychological contract is a useful concept for understanding what employees and employers expect of a job and a work environment, including not only expectations of tenure or promotion but also sense of entitlement to work-life benefits and flexible working arrangements. Indeed, it has recently been argued that work-life balance or integration can be a key factor in establishing a positive psychological contract (Coussey 2000, cited Smithson and Lewis 2003).

Psychological contract theory (Rousseau 1995, cited Scandura and Lankau 1997, p.377) suggests that women and those with family responsibilities may negotiate new psychological contracts that include family-responsive benefits such as flexible work hours. Recent UK research (Management Today, 2003) suggests that employees now have a higher sense of entitlement to flexible working arrangements than in the past and that they feel the psychological contract may be violated when flexible working or work-life benefits are not available to them.

Alternative Work Practices

Flexible work practices or alternative work arrangements are non-traditional work arrangements that allow staff to remain productive employees and still meet the employers' work needs.

Flexible work arrangements allow work to be performed on a reduced hour basis, before or after standard working hours (i.e. 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday), with a variation in schedules, and/or from alternative locations (e.g. telework). Researchers have also used the term "nonstandard employment schedules" (Cox & Presser 2000, cited Marler 2004)) to describe these work arrangements. The particular working time needs and preferences of working parents vary within and between countries

Flexible work schedules and work-life supports create opportunities for both employees and employersWhen executed successfully flexible working is seen as delivering multiple benefits - improved productivity and performance, new ways of working, enhanced employee commitment and retention, and the creation of high performance businesses built on working smarter, and not necessarily harder. . Employees, on the other hand, reap the benefits of structuring work around their lives instead of the other way around. The flexible work imperative is seen as being particularly strong for those sectors facing the biggest challenges in recruiting and retaining their top performing female senior staff.

Flexible work arrangement can be divided into four categories, according to the element which is allowed to be flexible (time, location, leave or working hours) as shown in figure 4. Some of the most popular work arrangements are explained below.

Figure 4. Different types of flexible work arrangements


Flexitime, is an increasingly popular flexible work pattern referring to flexible attendance at work outside of a pre-defined set of core hours (O'Brien and Hayden 2008). Employers and employees negotiate hours of work that are of advantage to both. It usually involves defining 'peak' hours when all employees must be in work. Starting and finishing times, on the other hand, are normally flexible and there is usually provision for taking leave in lieu of additional hours worked. The flexitime scheme enables staff to work efficiently while at the same time recognising that staff has to accommodate both work and private commitments on a daily basis.

Compressed week

This option involves establishing fixed work schedules that allow staff to take time off during a workweek in exchange for extended hours on the days worked. Compressed week involves the reorganisation of work time into extended, but fewer, "chunks" during a working week. This could mean working 10-hour days per week as opposed to five 8-hour days (O'Brien and Hayden 2008).

Annualised Hours

In an annualised hours system, an employee is contracted to work a certain number of hours per year. The actual weekly contractual hours vary to account for busy and quiet periods. Employees with an annualised hours working arrangement work a longer day when the service is busy and work shorter hours when there is less demand, but are paid the same amount each month. An increasing number of organisations are using an annualised hours approach for organising working time.

Part time

Part-time working basically means working fewer hours than a comparable full-time worker in the same organisation. Organisations vary in how they categorise part time working. Some specify a maximum number of hours; others merely indicate any number less than standard (Reilley 2000). Part-time is a particular popular option for women returning from maternity leave. In fact, the majority of people working part-time are women - and much of the rise in part-time working can be put down to the rise in women's employment.


Job sharing is a very common form of flexible work and is viewed as a family-friendly. It is an arrangement to divide one full-time job or to share work between two people with the responsibilities and benefits of the job being shared between them. The job can be shared on the basis of a split week, a split day or a week on/week off.

Job sharing can take one of the three basic forms based on division of responsibility as shown in figure 5.

Figure 5. Distribution of responsibility in job sharing

However, for job sharing to be effective, good management and communication are essential.

Job Splitting

This is an arrangement similar to job sharing except that the tasks involved in a full-time job are split between two people and each has responsibility for their own tasks rather than being equally responsible for the whole job. The need for co-ordination is, therefore, reduced. An advantage of job splitting is that a job can be split in such a way that certain tasks requiring particular skills can be grouped together.

Work sharing

Work sharing is a development of the job sharing/job splitting concept which attempts to achieve business tasks while allowing for a wider range of attendance patterns. This arrangement requires a high level of employer/employee co-operation with a view to achieving the tasks that make up the job. It is important that the tasks are clearly defined, targets identified and the level of service decided upon before the workload is divided up.

Maternity Leave

The purpose of this type of leave is to allow mothers to take time off work following the birth of a child, regardless of length of service. In Mauritius, the Labour Act allows female workers to take the 12 weeks' maternity leave at their discretion but with at least six weeks' leave being taken after the confinement.


This is a period of absence from work, which may or may not be on full pay, and duration is normally related to length of service. They provide an opportunity for employees to take a break from or reflect on their work, or engage in new activities. In recent years, sabbaticals have woven their way in to the corporate setting. In fact, Fortune Magazine's "100 Best Companies To Work For 2008" list includes 22 well known companies that offer fully paid sabbaticals.

Exam and Study Leave

When an employee is pursuing further education (this may or may not be job-related), an organisation may provide paid leave for the purposes of study and to enable the employee to sit exams.


The concept of e-Working means working at a distance, or even a remote location, and using technology to ease communications. It can also include a combination of e-Working and office based work. It is well suited to performing information technology tasks and works well in certain situations where the employee has a high degree of autonomy, e.g. journalism. Difficulties to be overcome can include issues of control, lack of face to face contact and consistency of service provision.

Virtual teams

This consist of putting together of teams of e-workers to work in a mutually supportive way. The members of the team may never meet and may not even be in the same country. This form of teamwork may be suitable in certain situations but the lack of personal interaction and human contact will render it inappropriate in situations where these factors are considered important.


Telecommuting refers to work at a location other than the main office (Mattis 1990). Telecommuting can take 2 forms. The first form is telecommuting from home where the employee has a computer at home that is connected to the employer's computer system. Second is and telecommuting from a satellite office. Here, an employee uses a computer at a satellite office set up specifically for telecommuting purposes.