Case Study: Awareness raising – Mensura, Belgium
Company / organisation name
Carer-friendly flexibility in time and place
About the company / organisation
Mensura is a consulting services company in the field of health and safety at work. The company aims to offer simple and efficient solutions to all types of employers in order to support them in the management of legal obligations regarding prevention, and health and safety at work.
The Mensura group has about 750 employees. The case presented here concerns Mensura Insurances, which provides accident insurance to employers. Mensura Insurances has about 190 employees, of which 47% are women.
Mensura is fully committed to applying all existing legislation and applicable collective agreements related to enabling employees to reconcile work and informal care responsibilities. It is also committed to promoting awareness about the issue among its staff. Employees must make an application in order to avail of certain provisions such as carer’s leave. However, the company takes responsibility for pro-actively informing staff of the options available.
General company measures concern part-time work as well as short and longer-term carer leave. In addition, specific measures have been introduced in the form of care-related supports, mainly focused on disseminating information among employees. Following the management of a number of different cases of working carers within the company, Mensura’s HR department decided to develop a pro-active information strategy on this issue within the company. E-mails are circulated to all employees on a regular basis, reminding them of their statutory rights in terms of short-term and long-term leave, and how they can avail of them at Mensura. All information is also available on the company’s intranet. In order to avoid confusion, Mensura only informs its Flemish workers about their statutory right to an additional bonus paid by the Flemish government in case of time-credit for care reasons (in the Walloon Region, the French-speaking part of the country, this statutory right does not exist).
Employees are actively encouraged to discus problematic situations with the HR department in order to jointly seek the most effective solution. The HR team is explicitly resolved to showing understanding regarding the specific needs of working carers.
These company initiatives are not underpinned by any formal organisational procedures. They operate on a more informal and discretionary basis. All types of working carers are considered; there are no formal eligibility criteria for qualifying as a ‘working carer’. In practice, decisions related to working carers are made on case-by-case basis in consultation with line managers and the HR department.
While national legislation provides the rights of working carers, the HR department of Mensura focuses on their implementation. It raises employee’s awareness about the provisions which are offered, such as carer leave, and helps working carers to access them. It makes arrangements that represent a good compromise between the needs of the worker and the company.
Rationale and background of the initiative
The measures to support workers with informal care responsibilities originate in national legislation rather than any company collective agreement or initiative. However, Mensura actively supports employees who want to avail of any of the statutory provisions. This means that working carers can make full use of their rights.
A number of contextual internal issues may explain why the company’s HR department aims to support working carers in effective ways. Mensura has a strongly developed corporate culture that values work–family balance. For instance, the company-level collective agreement includes various measures related to work–family balance. Examples include a half leave day per week for workers who have children under the age of 18. Up to now, the collective agreement has not included similar specific measures for working carers. However, there is a widespread awareness within the company that an increasing number of employees require support in reconciling work and care responsibilities. This demand is met by case-by-case arrangements, which are agreed upon by the employee, the line manager and the HR department.
Results and assessment
So far, Mensura has not undertaken any formal assessment of the extent to which the available provisions meet the needs of working carers among the staff. According to available information from the HR department, 12% of employees have reduced working hours in the form of a part-time working arrangement (such as time credit). No information is available regarding the reasons employees have asked for part-time work. Neither is data available on the proportion of employees who are making use of available measures as a means to address the practical challenges of work–care reconciliation.
Some anecdotal evidence is available, obtained through informal discussions with HR staff. This feedback confirms a point made by the HR manager: workers who have benefited from leave and/or flexible working time arrangements have found them to make work–care reconciliation significantly easier.
Moreover, every other year an employee satisfaction survey is conducted, which addresses the issue of work–life balance for all employees.
Issues, challenges and lessons learned
Mensura provides support to working carers via concrete measures that fall within the scope/frame of existing national legislation and collective regulation on this issue. This is the case with the majority of companies in Belgium.
In this way, Mensura helps its employees gain access to their existing statutory rights related to work–care reconciliation and return to work following periods of leave. It does so by establishing a company culture characterised by understanding and openness towards the specific needs of working carers.
Mensura has not yet developed company-level measures for workers with caring responsibilities. However, the company is strongly committed to a HR policy which gives full attention to work–life balance in general. Initiatives targeted specifically at working carers are expected to be introduced in the near future. This is a result of the positive corporate culture towards this issue and an increasing awareness about the issue among the company’s HR department and other key stakeholders.
Case study authors:
• Prof Gerard Valenduc, Fondation Travail, Université ASBL
• Périne Brotcorne, Foundation Travail-Université.
• Ann De Ryck, Manager/facilitator, Human Resources Manager of Mensura Insurances, Mensura