Slovenia: Promotion of gender equality and work–family balance in collective agreements

A year-long project to improve gender equality in Slovenia has shown that although the social partners recognise equality measures as important elements of collective agreements, few have been incorporated. The GEQUAL project was led by the Institute for Labour Law at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ljubljana.


Staff at the Institute for Labour Law at the Faculty of Law (IDPF) at the University of Ljubljana created the GEQUAL project to raise awareness among the social partners about the importance of those measures to improve people’s work–life balance that also support gender equality. It was also hoped the project would help them explore the possibilities of regulating such measures in collective agreements. The project analysed whether collective agreements in Slovenia address current work–life balance issues, such as:

  • active fatherhood;
  • population ageing;
  • the promotion of balanced gender representation in leading positions.

It also explored the extent to which the social partners in Slovenia include these topics in collective bargaining. Part of the project incorporated a survey of unions and employer organisations regarding the benefits and obstacles when introducing measures to reconcile work and family measures in collective agreements.

Promotion of work–family balance in collective agreements

The coverage of collective agreements in Slovenia is very high (at least 80%), and they therefore represent an key source of employees’ rights, including work–family balance (which can contribute to reducing gender inequalities). In order to evaluate how measures for a better reconciliation of work and family have been implemented in collective agreements, the IDPF developed its Index I. This is an index of the normative inclusion of aspects for easier reconciliation of work and family into collective agreements. Index I has a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 equals no work–life balance indicators included in a collective agreement. An agreement’s position on the scale is based on 13 indicators (drawn from a sample of 20 sectoral collective agreements):

  • women in demanding managerial jobs;
  • balanced representation of both sexes in procedures and institutions of social dialogue;
  • reduction of full-time working hours;
  • limits on overtime work;
  • flexible, family-friendly scheduling of working hours;
  • enabling working at home and working at another location;
  • annual leave;
  • absence due to family obligations;
  • adaptation of work to school/kindergarten hours;
  • return to work after parental leave;
  • allowing for care needs of elderly family members;
  • promoting active fatherhood;
  • differences in pay related to family obligations.

The analysis showed that work-life balance measures that support gender equality have not been systematically included in collective agreements. Only two (those for the electrical industry and for the textile, clothing and leather industry) out of 20 reached a value of 50 out of 100, while other collective agreements reached between 0 and 30. For instance, measures like ‘returning to work after parental leave’ or ‘measures for the parents of first-grade children or children who start attending kindergarten’ are completely absent.

Little attention is also paid to:

  • workers who care for elderly family members (10% of collective agreements);
  • regulation of balanced representation of both sexes in institutions of social dialogue (15% of collective agreements);
  • women in leading positions (20% of collective agreements);
  • general reduction of full-time work (20% of collective agreements);
  • restrictions on overtime (20% of collective agreements).

Some attention in collective agreements is paid to:

  • monitoring the difference in pay related to family obligations (25% of collective agreements);
  • adjusting working hours to family obligations (40% of collective agreements);
  • the rights of fathers (40% of collective agreements).
  • more attention regarding work–life balance is devoted to:
  • a person’s place of work (60% of collective agreements);
  • annual leave (65% of collective agreements);
  • absence from work due to family obligations (90% of collective agreements).

Employers’ view

The GEQUAL project included a survey of employers regarding the importance of work–life measures in employment relations, their relevance and impact in practice and the benefits or obstacles when implementing them in collective agreements.

The Association of Employers of Slovenia (ZDS), as a participating partner in the project, gathered data through an online survey in April and May 2015 among 421 Slovenian companies. Most respondents were women (79%), employed mostly in large (30%) and medium-sized companies (35%). A a smaller share of respondents came from micro companies (16%) and small firms (20%).

One-fifth of the respondents (19%) were involved in collective bargaining at company level and 5% at sectoral level, while 4% of respondents were members of the ZDS Section Committee. Most of the respondents (85%) were from companies without the Family-Friendly Enterprise Certificate. This certificate (basic or full) is awarded to Slovenian companies who are aware of their social responsibility, based on the principle of employee–management cooperation, with an emphasis on work–life balance.

The results showed that in companies with the basic or full Family-Friendly Enterprise Certificate, women, ZDS Section Committee members and those not involved in collective bargaining at sectoral and/or company level find measures for better reconciliation of work and family responsibilities very important and think they should be implemented across the board at company, sectoral and national levels.

Respondents involved in collective bargaining consider that a comprehensive approach to implementing work–life measures is less important but confirm its positive effects, which include greater satisfaction and sense of belonging for their employees.

The most important work–life balance measures were defined by participants as:

  • family-friendly scheduling of working time;
  • measures to accommodate the parents of first-grade children or children who start attending kindergarten.

Less important measures were defined as those promoting:

  • more balanced use of parental rights between both parents;
  • work at home at the request of the worker;
  • special measures to foster a better work–family balance for fathers;
  • additional paid leave due to family obligations.

Trade union view

The Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia (ZSSS) carried out a survey among trade union representatives, involved in the collective bargaining process at all three levels, in April 2015. The research sample included 69 respondents who fully completed the survey, and was gender-balanced (49% of women and 51% of men). Most respondents (57%) were aged 46–64, followed by those aged 36–45 (29%). Almost half the respondents (48%) were company trade union representatives, 19% were sectoral trade union leaders, 16% trade union leaders or advisers at regional level and 12% external trade union leaders or ZSSS advisers. Some 6% could not be included in any of the above-mentioned categories.

Among all the respondents, the greatest importance to measures for reconciliation of work and family was given by women, younger respondents (aged up to 35 years), those who work in the public sector and respondents who negotiate only at company level.

The results showed that almost 93% of representatives find that measures for a better reconciliation of work and family in collective agreements are very important for regulating employment relationships and that they should be agreed at different levels of social dialogue.

The most important work–life balance measures, as defined by the respondents, were:

  • measures for the parents of first-grade children or children who are starting kindergarten;
  • family-friendly scheduling of working time;
  • limiting the posting of workers with family obligations to work in another place.

However, trade union representatives found the following measures less important:

  • additional paid leave due to family obligations;
  • support of childcare by the employers;
  • working at home at the request of the worker.

The largest obstacles to integrating these measures were insufficient awareness of them on the part of employers and employers' reluctance to incorporate them as atypical measures or ‘soft’ rules. Among the positive effects of measures for promoting a better reconciliation of work and family, respondents cited increased satisfaction, greater confidence on the part of workers in their employer, reduced stress and increased productivity.


Collective agreements in Slovenia present one of the fundamental instruments for regulating the employment relationship as their coverage is high and social partners can, through collective bargaining, contribute a great deal to the reduction of gender inequalities.

The results of the GEQUAL project showed that two-thirds of Slovenian employers and 93% of trade union representatives thought measures to facilitate the coordination of work and family obligations were key to a good employment relationship and should be incorporated and linked at all levels of collective agreements.

Among the most important work–life balance measures, cited by employers as well as employees, were measures for the parents of first-grade children or children who are starting kindergarten, and family-friendly scheduling of working time. Most respondents perceived the impact of implementing these measures as positive and recognised them as most effective in promoting employees’ greater satisfaction and increased sense of belonging and decreasing levels of stress.

The report also highlights that the largest obstacles to the adoption of the most important work–life balance measures are some employers' lack of awareness of them and employers' reluctance to incorporate them as ‘soft’ rules, since they are completely absent from their collective agreements. However, more attention is devoted to the place of work, annual leave and absence from work due to family obligations, which are recognised as part of the reconciliation of work and family life. And since the role of social partners in promoting equal opportunities in the labour market is crucial, the process of collective bargaining offers an opportunity for introducing a variety of approaches and good practices in reconciling work and family into collective agreements.


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