Case Study: Awareness raising – Sava, Slovenia
Company / organisation name
Family-friendly Enterprise Certificate
About the company / organisation
Sava Holding Company is active in a wide range of product and service markets, ranging from tourist, real estate services and investment banking to the manufacturing of technical rubber and chemical products. Sava belongs to the largest business operation in Slovenia. It focuses on areas in which it can achieve strong market penetration and high international visibility, both in Slovenia and in neighbouring countries. Sava has a long tradition going back to 1920, when a small workshop was established in Kranj for producing automobile tires. The Sava Group is a mixed private-public company, currently employing 2,250 persons. Demographic analysis of the company shows that women make up 48.4% of the workforce. The proportion of employees aged over 50 years is 20.5%.
Sava received the Family-friendly Enterprise Certificate in 2007. 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. These include flexible working times, company childcare services, job sharing, adoption leave, part-time work and caring assistance for a family member with a disability. Moreover, companies need to agree to undergo an assessment of their existing measures that address employees’ reconciliation of work and family.
Most measures are targeted at all employees, with some focusing exclusively on employees with preschool and school-going children. Only a few measures are aimed at workers taking care of an elderly family member. Of the various measures agreed upon between Sava and the organisation responsible for managing the certification (Zavod Ekvilib), those outlined below are of direct relevance to working carers.
Appointment of a work–life balance officer: the work– life balance officer is responsible for all issues concerning the reconciliation of work and family responsibilities. The post involves the provision of advisory services and practical support in emergency situations for employees with caring responsibilities.
Information newsletter for employees and their family members: an internal company newsletter called Savček is published regularly. It provides information and articles on the reconciliation of working and family responsibilities.
Information touch screens in rubber manufacturing: while office workers can access information related to work–family reconciliation via the intranet, blue-collar workers in Sava’s rubber plants are supplied with the information via stand-alone terminals that are operated on an info board.
Management training and skills provision: this includes training and awareness-raising activities for management staff about how to reconcile responsibilities from their working and family life. The training also intends to provide skills for addressing challenges that are becoming increasingly relevant, such as the needs of working carers. Staff meetings and meetings with works councils and trade union representatives are also used to raise awareness of this issue.
Most measures that target employees with young children are in the process of being formalised, by being included in collective agreements. The specific needs of working carers (dependents who are elderly or have a disability), however, have not yet been addressed through formal procedures. In the past, the company dealt with such cases by means of individual solutions tailored to the specific requirements of the employee in question. This could mean financial support (as part of social responsibility) or agreeing on flexible working times. Sometimes, working shifts have been changed or swapped in order to make it easier for a staff member to manage caring responsibilities. Temporary home-based telework has also been offered in a limited number of cases, but this option has not been formally implemented.
Rationale and background of the initiative
In recent years, representatives from the HR department and the works councils at Sava have used the Family-friendly Enterprise Certificate project to (re-)introduce some social benefits for workers. When the Family-friendly Enterprise Certificate was introduced in Slovenia, they presented it to management. This resulted in a shared decision to apply for the certification process. The positive relationship between work–family balance measures and job satisfaction among employees, rates of absenteeism, and labour turnover was seen as particularly important. Top management at Sava also realised the usefulness of the certification process for public relations and for contributing to a positive public image of the company.
A project group was set up in cooperation with Zavod Ekvilib, the organisation in charge of the certification process. From a catalogue of potential measures, Sava picked the ones of most relevance to itself, and obtained approval from top management.
Composition of the project group was based on heterogeneity. The intention was to include all major internal stakeholder groups, including employees with young children, older employees, employees with disabilities, and representatives of the works council. The project group is responsible for selecting measures, based on available information on the needs of the workers, and for planning and implementing them.
At the time when the company underwent the certification process, the public discourse in Slovenia was focusing on the situation of young families. There was much discussion about low fertility rates, housing problems of young families, and the difficulties faced by young people in finding employment. For that reason, many of the ideas that were voiced dealt with ways of supporting employees who want to combine paid work with bringing up children.
In the meantime, the internal discussion has moved on, and there is increased awareness of the needs of elderly employees. Focus on the ageing workforce implies an increased interest in the needs of working carers.
Results and assessment
The certification process has led to positive outcomes for the company. The certificate is used for public relation purposes. For example, the logo ‘Certified as a Family-friendly Enterprise’ is being used in external communications. The certification process has brought public recognition that the company cares about its employees.
Sava has carried out an employee survey to assess employees’ awareness of the work–family balance measures that are available to them. It also addressed their satisfaction with these measures and the level of take-up of these measures. The main results were that the Family-friendly Enterprise certification process appears to have had a positive effect on job satisfaction among most employees and that it should be promoted more widely.
A formal cost-benefit analysis has not yet been undertaken, but one is planned for the near future.
Issues, challenges and lessons learned
Working carers clearly benefit from some of the measure introduced in the context of the certification process. However, these measures do not explicitly address the needs of workers caring for family members who are elderly or who have a disability. So far, the target group has been workers with children at preschool and school-going age.
A separate project focusing on elderly workers and their specific requirements is currently in preparation.
As yet, no information exists on the extent employees of this company face the issue of reconciling work and informal care-giving. Nevertheless, the average age of employees is now 42 years, and this will become increasingly relevant over the coming decade. So far, the needs of employees caring for family members who are elderly or who have a disability have been addressed on a case-by-case basis, in compliance with the existing legislation.
The company has some ideas and plans for measures that explicitly address the challenges related to an ageing workforce, which they will consider in the near future. This will include measures for employees caring for family members who are elderly or who have a disability.
Case study author:
- Dr. Ziva Humer, The Peace Institute, Ljubljana