Case Study: Awareness raising – Elektro Ljubljana, Slovenia
Company / organisation name
Family Friendly Enterprise Certificate
About the company / organisation
Elektro Ljubljana is the largest electricity provider in Slovenia, covering Ljubljana and the surrounding regions. The company has more than 110 years experience of providing electric energy and related services. Elektro Ljubljana’s has its headquarters in Ljubljana and five distribution centres in south-central Slovenia (Kočevje, Ljubljana city, Ljubljana environs, Novo Mesto and Trbovlje). Elektro Ljubljana is a private company, majority owned by the state. It employs 984 people. Women comprise 18% of its workforce and 24% are above 50 years of age.
Elektro Ljubljana provides material and financial support to a variety of humanitarian, cultural, sports and social campaigns and events throughout its distribution area. It provides financial aid to the Rdeči Noski (‘Red Noses’) initiative, which uses the ‘clown doctors’, a team of doctors who visit children in hospital. The company also gives financial support to the Help in Distress Foundation, which gives help to deprived children and families.
In 2009, Elektro Ljubljana received the Family Friendly Enterprise Certificate. Prior to this, certain measures were already in place to support employees and their families. For example, employees could choose between various working day options, via the flexitime system. This involves ‘gliding times’ between 06:30 and 07:30 in the morning and 14:30 and 15:30 in the afternoon.
The company had two objectives regarding the certification process: to enable employees to better reconcile working and family responsibilities, and to design company support measures in a more systematic way. The adopted measures address all employees, but those with small children and/or family members in need of care are most likely to benefit. The certification process includes 14 measures. Some are quite general, while others are more tailored to groups of employees. The ones outlined below have some relevance to working carers.
Communication: this involves informing employees about issues of work–life balance through the house journal, ‘Elektro novice’ and the intranet.
Internal surveys: the purpose of employee surveys is to explore take-up and satisfaction levels with individual support measures. Surveys are also used to give employees the opportunity to provide feedback and to make recommendations for modified or new measures. In the 2010 employee survey, 12% of the company staff took part, with the majority agreeing that Elektro Ljubljana was a family-friendly enterprise. The next survey is planned for 2012.
External communication policy: the company is making increased use of its initiatives for family-friendliness in its public relations activities.
Timing of work meetings: managers are instructed to schedule work meetings in ways that take account of employees’ family responsibilities. An example might be a business meeting that is taking place in one of the distribution centres, involving employees from several cities. In such a case, employees’ commuting time to the meeting is considered and planned for in a family-friendly way. In practice, this means that meetings are avoided during the early morning and later afternoon hours.
Timing of education measures (seminars, workshops): training measures take place during normal working hours, again to enable employees to better reconcile their working and family responsibilities.
Health protection and preventive measures: this is a general measure which supports employees’ capacity to manage their various work and leisure time responsibilities.
Appointment of a work–life balance officer: the advisory role of this new position is to provide information and to develop solutions to address employees’ problems concerning reconciliation of work and family responsibilities. The work–life balance officer also collects ideas and drafts recommendations about potential improvements in the area.
‘Philosophy and management’: the idea behind this measure is to kick-start a process by which awareness and understanding is created among managers regarding the reconciliation of work and family responsibilities.
Management training and skills: in addition to the above, managers are being provided with training to equip them with the social skills to communicate effectively with employees about issues of work–life balance, including employees’ informal care responsibilities at home.
One measure is directed explicitly at working carers who look after dependent family members. It is described below.
Additional paid leave: employees are entitled to an additional five paid leave days per year if they need time to addressing family-related needs. This is provided if this requirement is not covered by existing provisions, such as parental leave and sick leave. Employees can use these five days for accompanying a sick child (up to 15 years of age) to hospital or for staying with their child them in hospital. It can also be used for caring for another family member, such as a spouse/partner or parent. Eligibility for this measure requires a written certificate by a doctor or specialist that confirms that the respective family member requires care.
Rationale and background of the initiative
Elektro Ljubljana is one of a second generation of companies taking part in the certification process for -family-friendly enterprises in Slovenia. The certification methodology is based on the European work and family audit developed by the German organisation, berufundfamilie in the 1990s. The original methodology was adapted to the Slovenian economic and legislative framework. The certification process requires participating companies to agree to adopt at least three measures from a catalogue of work–family reconciliation measures. Examples include flexible working times, company childcare services, job sharing, adoption leave, part-time work and assistance in caring for a family member with a disability. Moreover, companies need to agree to undergo an assessment of existing measures that address employees’ reconciliation of work and family.
The agreed upon measures for receiving the certificate are recognised as long term processes, rather than activities to be carried out and completed in the short term.
An internal project group was engaged for overseeing the certification process and the measures to be introduced. Measures were selected from a catalogue of possible measures provided by the organisation in charge of the certification. These measures were then presented to management, who approved them.
The internal project group is made up of representatives from different parts of the company. Trade union representatives also took part in the process.
Results and assessment
So far, very few employees have applied for the ‘additional paid leave’ measure described above. Of course, the fact that the measure was only implemented about one year ago, might explain why take-up has been so low. In 2010, less than 1% of the workforce had used ‘additional paid leave’. Those who did use it gave the following reasons:
- taking care of an elderly parent;
- taking care of a seriously ill spouse;
- accompanying their child to the hospital.
Around 2% of employees make use of flexitime. Some may be using this measure to engage in informal care at home.
According to the employee survey, existing measures that address work–family balance are well perceived and accepted among employees.
A cost-benefit analysis has not been undertaken so far. The company feels that the strengthening of job motivation and loyalty among employees are the most important benefits of the process.
Issues, challenges and lessons learned
The reconciliation of work and informal care-giving to dependents who are elderly or have a disability has not yet been widely discussed within the company.
Some of the measures that were agreed upon during the certification process are of a general nature. For example, public relations activities and health promotion both target all employees of the company. Other measures relate to employees’ responsibility for care-giving within their family. These still tend to focus on childcare (such as the ‘child time bonus’); however, some also take account of the needs of carers of other family members (such as additional paid leave). This can be seen as a first step towards achieving greater awareness of the needs of working carers within the company.
As the newly implemented measures have not been available for a very long time, levels of take-up are modest. However, the company expects that in the future many more employees will show an interest in using ‘additional paid leave’ themselves.
Case study author:
- Dr. Ziva Humer, The Peace Institute, Ljubljana
- Website of Elektro Ljubljana [accessed at: http://www.elektro-ljubljana.si/]