Employee participation and quality of the work environment: cases from New Zealand

Raymond Markey, Candice Harris, Katherine Ravenswood, Gay Simpkin, David Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article reports on an investigation of the association between direct and representative forms of employee participation and the quality of the work environment, including the psychosocial work environment. A multi-method research strategy was utilized in eight organisational case studies across four New Zealand industries: hotels, schools, aged care facilities and food manufacturing factories. The study finds that workplaces with strong forms of participation displayed high levels of work environment quality, but that this association was mediated by the nature of different forms of participation and their relationship with each other, as well as by industry characteristics. Representative participation plays a critical role, but in the absence of union representation, JCCs or direct participation can also play important roles. In other words, it appears to be either union or non-union participation but not both, that is associated with positive QWE outcomes. These results support previous research suggesting that non-union forms of employee participation may displace or undercut unionism, but there is no confirmation that direct participation was associated with poor QWE outcomes as suggested by some recent literature. The research also contradicts European, particularly Scandinavian, evidence regarding the complementary role of direct and representative participation, including union representation, which may reflect the impact of differential national industrial relations regimes. Further research is needed at this level to examine the differential impact of various forms of employee participation on the full quality of work environment, including its psychosocial aspects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-71
Number of pages20
JournalNew Zealand journal of employment relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • quality of work environment
  • employee participation
  • representative employee participation
  • psychosocial work environment
  • workload and stress


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