Employers show support for family-friendly measures

In 2008, the Malta Employers’ Association conducted a study on family-friendly measures in the public and private sectors. The research aimed to determine how employers deal with requests for family-friendly measures, the type of requests received and how government can help to enhance such measures. Overall, 71% of respondents have never refused requests for family-friendly measures and 89% believe that they are conducive to higher female labour market participation.

About the study

Family-friendly measures have moved up the agenda in Maltese society in recent times, and yet little is known on what measures are being implemented in the workplace in this regard. Family-friendly measures for workers in the public sector are generous, but the same cannot be said for those working in the private sector. In total, two out of three women work in the private sector. Legally, these women have fewer rights that enable them to adjust their work patterns and to reconcile these with their family commitments. A study carried out by the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA) in 2008 aims to provide a clearer insight into what is happening in this area.

Methodology

The study is based on a survey carried out among 121 Maltese organisations and distributed by email to all employers in various sectors of economic activity. The majority of respondents were from the services sector, followed by employers in the manufacturing sector. Overall, 105 respondents were from the private sector and 16 respondents from the public sector. The largest group of respondents employed fewer than 30 workers, while 25 companies employed more than 300 workers.

Main findings

Amount of requests for family-friendly measures

In total, 78% of respondents indicated that they had received requests for family-friendly measures from their employees, with 54% of this group stating that such requests had been constant over the past three years. Some 38% of the respondents emphasised that such requests were on the increase. The majority of requests for family-friendly measures related to reduced working hours (81 requests), followed by requests for flexitime (58), teleworking (34) and extended parental leave (27). The respondents reported only four requests for an extension of working hours.

The research showed that demands for such family-friendly measures were met in the majority of cases, except in the case of childcare services and the possibility of bringing a child to the workplace. Demands for childcare-related measures exceeded what was being granted by employers – for instance, out of 30 such requests, only 13 could be accommodated by employers.

Gender differences

The majority of employers (77%) stated that the majority of requests for family-friendly measures came from women and only 5% of employers claimed that such requests were made mostly by men. Regarding requests for parental leave, 52% of respondents indicated that requests for such leave came mostly from female employees, while 24% of respondents stated that they had similar requests from men. Meanwhile, 24% of respondents claimed that they had not received requests for parental leave.

Number of requests granted

In terms of granting requests for family-friendly measures, 79% of the employers indicated that requests are decided on a case-by-case basis, while 9% stated that they have contractual arrangements on which the decision is based. The majority of employers (68%) indicated that they do not have family-friendly policies, yet 71% stated that they have never refused such requests. Employers who decided to turn down requests for family-friendly measures gave a number of reasons, including the fear of creating precedents and the expenses involved. Others turned down such requests because they already had members of staff on family-related leave and granting further requests could possibly lead to a staff shortage.

Government support needed

The majority of employers (45%) believe that the Maltese government should create more childcare centres, offer more fiscal incentives (33%) and extend school opening hours (18%) in order to facilitate more family-friendly measures. The remaining employers (4%) suggest a mixture of other incentives.

Conclusions

The research shows that, in general, employers have a positive attitude towards family-friendly measures. In fact, various forms of family-friendly measures are already being implemented by employers. The vast majority of requests for such measures reportedly come from female employees and it seems that employers prefer to handle requests on a case-by-case basis. Maltese employers consider the use of childcare centres as the most effective means through which the government can increase women’s participation in the labour market.

Reference

Malta Employers’ Association (MEA), ‘Results of questionnaire on family-friendly measures’, Business Breakfast presentation by MEA Director General Joseph Farrugia, Floriana, 3 December 2008.

Anna Borg, Centre for Labour Studies

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