Encouraging men to play a more active role in caring
A Slovenian study conducted as part of the‘Fostering caring masculinities’ (FOCUS) project sought to examine male employees’ and managers’ attitudes to measures for balancing work and private or family life. Among the findings, the study indicates that parental leave provisions are mainly taken up by women and that men only avail of such measures in exceptional cases, fearing that it may have negative implications in the workplace.
About the FOCUS project
‘Fostering caring masculinities’ (FOCUS) is the name of a project that seeks to encourage men to play a more active role in caring tasks, challenging the stereotype of caring as a gender-related and undervalued activity in society. The project involves five countries: Germany, Iceland, Norway, Slovenia and Spain. It was initiated by the Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality (Barne- og Likestillingsdepartementet, BLD) and funded through the EU’s Community programme on gender equality. One of the priority themes of this programme is the role of men in the promotion of gender equality – in particular, the role of men and fathers in reconciling work and private life.
As part of the project, each of the five national partners carried out qualitative workplace studies in two different companies – one in the private sector and the other in the public sphere. Male employees and managers were interviewed as part of the studies. The interviews placed a particular emphasis on the topics of their private lives, experiences pertaining to work, and ideas concerning organisational measures for balancing work and private life. The Slovenian sample included two companies from the media sector: the publicly-owned company Radio Slovenia and the private company POP TV. The national reports arising from these studies describe the findings and suggest measures that could be developed at an organisational level within companies. The main concern of the project was to determine the reasons why gender equality often remains just an ideal rather than an active policy supported by the management.
Legislation on parental leave
Slovenia’s Parental Protection and Family Benefit Act (203Kb PDF), adopted in 2001, is the core of formal mechanisms for balancing work and family obligations. The act provides for four kinds of leave: maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave to take care of a child and adoption leave. Maternity leave lasts for 105 days and is granted to the mother – unless the mother dies, leaves the child or is temporarily or permanently incapable of independent living and work. Prior to the adoption of the aforementioned act, paternity leave did not exist.
A booklet published by the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs (Ministrstvo za delo, družino in socialne zadeve, MDDSZ), entitled Parental Protection Insurance, defines paternity leave as: ‘a leave intended for fathers to be able to engage, together with the mother, in the protection and care of the child in the most tender period of the child’s life.’ This form of leave allows for 15 days of paid leave which have to be used within the time of the mother’s maternity leave. In addition, fathers can avail of 75 days of unpaid leave, during which the state guarantees the payment of social security contributions based on the minimum wage. At the time when the research was conducted, these 75 days had to be used before the child’s third birthday. The distinctive feature of paternity leave is its lack of transferability. According to the figures issued by the MDDSZ, the right to paternity leave was claimed by 10,971 fathers of children born in 2003; the average length of leave was eight days.
A drawback that was identified by the study is that the existing regulation does not provide for wage compensation for paternity leave for the 75 days of leave which fathers can use after their partner’s maternity leave has finished. As outlined, the state only ensures the payment of social security contributions based on the minimum wage for that period. This is likely to discourage fathers from making use of paternity leave in its entirety.
Take-up of parental leave
Although the 260 days of parental leave following the 105 days of maternity leave can be split between the mother and father, the data for Slovenia show that it is mostly women who take parental leave in its entirety. For instance, in 2003, only 2.3% of fathers claimed the right to take paternal leave. Nonetheless, it can be said that some positive changes have occurred, as the proportion of fathers opting for leave was 1% lower in the previous year.
The Parental Protection and Family Benefit Act also introduced the right of parents to work part time until the child is three years of age. The findings of the research, Parents between work and family, showed that between 3% and 4% of parents work part time after parental leave has ended. Among these, however, some 90% are women.
On the basis of the interviews, the national report for Slovenia concluded that the mechanisms available to parents are still predominantly used by women only. Men take advantage of leave measures only in exceptional cases, mostly when their partners cannot avail of them. Regarding paternity leave, male respondents emphasised that they find the leave useful and mainly used the fully-paid part of paternity leave, that is the first 15 days. However, they also pointed to the fact that their absence generates extra work for their co-workers. Because of this, they are reluctant to opt for longer periods of leave. Some of the respondents added that their longer absences could also have a negative impact on the company’s work processes. In addition, some employees remarked that the existing formal mechanisms of life–family reconciliation are not publicised well enough. Therefore, the report suggests that an information centre should be set up for fathers who may wish to avail of such measures in the future.
Mirko Mrcela, Organisational and Human Resources Research Centre, University of Ljubljana