Case Study: Awareness raising – Pharmaceutical company, Slovenia
Company / organisation name
Family Friendly Enterprise Certificate
About the company / organization
The company was established more than 50 years ago, and is mainly engaged in developing, manufacturing and distributing pharmaceutical products. It employs 2,400 people in Slovenia, and women make up almost 50% of this workforce. Employees aged over 50 years make up about 20% of the workforce.
The company applied for the Family Friendly Enterprise Certificate, and a few years ago it received the basic certificate (Osnovni Certifikat Družini prijazno podjetje). Thirteen of the measures it has defined in certification process are of some relevance to working carers. These are outlined below.
Flexitime: This provides employees with the option of flexible working hours. Under this scheme, all workers are required to be present at work during certain core hours, but otherwise may set their own arrival and departure times. Employees can choose – upon consultation with their co-workers and superiors – to start work anytime between 7:00 and 8:30 and to finish anytime between 15:00 and 16:00. The introduction of this measure aimed to avoid late arrivals to work among employees, due to accompanying their children to school and kindergarten. By allowing them to choose their own arrival time, employees were enabled to reconcile their work and family responsibilities. Time accounts: Employees are free to make flexible use of their overtime hours in order to reconcile work and family responsibilities. For example, if an employee needs to take an elderly family member to an appointment with the doctor during normal working hours, they can do so by using their overtime account. A total of 16 hours of overtime can be transferred from one year to the next.
Guidelines about meetings: Managers are instructed to arrange for meetings to start and close within regular working hours (i.e. between 8:30 and 15:00). This is done in order to enable all members of a team to reconcile their work and family life.
Communication with employees: Employees are informed of relevant measures and rules of their implementation, both of which are described in detail. Communication tools include an employee e-manual, a brochure, and a company magazine.
Regular interview survey of associates: This measure aims to provide feedback on the implementation of relevant measures, their effectiveness and employees’ perceptions of them.
Information and communications policy: Topics related to the reconciliation of work and family responsibilities are promoted in external communication.
Appointment of a work–life balance commissioner: The advisory role of the work–life balance commissioner is to provide information and to help find solutions to employees’ problem concerning the reconciliation of work and family responsibilities. The commissioner is responsible for activities within the Family-Friendly Company project and for related communication. In appointing work–life balance commissioners, the company aims to provide the employees with prompt and easy access to advice on how to solve any employment-related issues.
Management training and skills provision: This comprises training activities for and sensibilisation of managers at all levels of the company regarding the issue of work–life balance. The activities introduce emerging topics, such as care responsibilities for employees. The company has organised social gatherings for all employees outside of work hours. Snacks are offered and a topical issue is presented; work–life reconciliation has been considered in this context.
Promotion of equal opportunities: In job advertisements, the company emphasizes the following message: ‘We respect the principle of equal opportunities’.
Awareness-raising activities: The company is committed to taking part in the active promotion of work–life balance in the media (via advertisements, for example) and in presentations at international and local conferences that relate to this issue.
Telework / working from home: The option of carrying out some of their work from home is especially welcomed by employees with family responsibilities. Employees may request to alternate between working at the employer's premises and working from home / teleworking.
Rationale and background of the initiative
The company invests in its employees, not only through education and training opportunities, but also by offering them recreational activities, free of charge. Examples include fitness facilities, the promotion of healthy food, and the promotion of activities that enable an easier reconciliation of work and family responsibilities. Indeed, it has a long tradition of striving to be a family-friendly enterprise; for many years it has operated a company kindergarten for the children of its employees.
The company is also engaged in activities to support the elderly. For example, a few years ago it provided a donation to a private initiative that offers recreational activities in residential homes for elderly persons. The company also runs a pensioner association, which offers leisure activities, education and training courses to former employees.
This background explains why the company was immediately interested in the Family Friendly Enterprise Initiative, when was introduced 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 specifics of the Slovenian economic and legislative framework. The certification process requires companies to agree to adopt at least three measures from a catalogue of work–family reconciliation measures, such as flexible working times, company childcare services, job sharing, adoption leave, part-time work and assistance in caring for a disabled family member. Moreover, participating companies must agree to undergo an assessment of their current status with regard to conditions for the reconciliation of work and family.
The company saw the certification process as a means of systematically organising existing activities related to work–family reconciliation. This implied taking stock of such measures, as well as implementing new activities or mechanisms to improve employees’ ability to combine work and family responsibilities. Measures were made available to all employees in the company in all locations in Slovenia.
The main objectives for applying for the certification process were as follows:
- to systemise existing measures for the reconciliation of work and family responsibilities;
- to explore how work–family reconciliation can be further improved by introducing new measures;
- to help raise awareness of the Family-friendly Enterprise Certificate in Slovenia;
- to become a major promoter of family-friendly provisions in companies, and to act as a role model for other companies in the country.
In addition to national legislation and the measures agreed upon during the certification process, the company places emphasis on individual, informal agreements between worker, line manager and co-workers. These are agreed upon on a case-by-case basis. They often involve flexible working times that allow employees to make use of overtime hours according to their family needs. Other features include family-friendly scheduling of annual leave, the use of flexitime and telework from home. In practice, the feasibility of certain arrangements depends on the nature of the job. For example, people working in production have more limited options available to them; working from home, for example, is not an option. In some cases, employees were moved to another site or job position in order to allow them to combine work and caring responsibilities.
Results and assessment
According to management, the main outcome of the implementation of the certification process is a much greater awareness among staff of the issue of work-care reconciliation.
An employee survey was conducted to find out employees’ views of existing measures. It found that the majority of staff held a positive view of individual schemes. The company, however, does not consider this as evidence that enough is being done, as the possibility remains that employees simply do not think they can expect anything more from the employer.
Issues, challenges and lessons learnedOne challenge is that of ensuring that all employees have equal access to the measures on offer. For example, employees in some job positions clearly benefit from more options than others; in production, where machines are working around the clock, work processes allow for less flexibility than is the case in other departments. For example, the option of working from home is not available to people employed in production. For these reasons, work–family reconciliation in production has been recognised as a field that requires further consideration in the future.During the certification process, plans were made to provide assistance to employees who care for family members in their spare time. The main idea was to provide these working carers with professional assistance at home. Moreover, working carers were also to benefit from additional paid leave. However, this measure could not be realised; this was due to the high costs involved and operational problems in providing a professional care service. The idea has been shelved for now, but a comparable initiative might be implemented in the near future. Working carers clearly benefit from some of the measures introduced in the context of the certification process. However, these initiatives do not explicitly address the needs of workers caring for disabled or elderly dependants; the main target group is that of workers with preschool and school-going children. So far, the specific needs of working carers are solved on a case-by-case basis, at operational level, taking due account of the existing legislation.Sources
Case study author:
- Dr. Ziva Humer, The Peace Institute, Ljubljana
- Head of Corporate Communications, conducted on 26 January 2011.