RTP seeks to improve work-life balance

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Over 1998-2000, the Portuguese national broadcasting company, RTP, ran an experimental project aimed at improving the reconciliation of work and family life, including new working time arrangements. In early 2001, negotiations are underway to introduce some of the initiatives on a permanent basis

Over 1998-2000, the Portuguese national broadcasting company, Rádio Televisão Portuguesa (RTP), ran an equal opportunities project, as part of the Work and Family (Trabalho e Família) scheme, an initiative of the EU's (New Opportunities for Women) initiative. The aim was to raise the issues of equal opportunities for men and women, and of reconciling family and working life. As part of the project, RTP tried out new ways of managing working time, such as flexible timetables, a compressed working week, shiftwork and teleworking, and established a pool of carers and babysitters.

The project was assessed in February 20001, and according to its coordinator at RTP it has been a positive experiment, after a certain amount of initial resistance will be overcome, inasmuch as it has helped to:

  • disseminate information on rights and responsibilities; and
  • enable the company, in addition to demonstrating its social concern, to help to change the way people think, in favour of equal opportunities and better reconciliation of family and working life.

RTP and the trade unions are now negotiating new ways of organising working time, and the equality experiment has led to an exchange of ideas within the company concerning the continuation of the project. No significant problems stand in the way of a compressed working week. However, teleworking has led to a more negative reaction, from both supervisors and employees - the need for new skills, new evaluation methods, and the fear of losing benefits and opportunities and even visibility, were issues there were raised during the experiment and which need to be considered in the future.

The RTP case is of particular interest because Portugal currently has relatively few structures and measures that promote a better balance between work and family life. In light of this fact, the 2000 Portuguese National Action Plan (NAP) for employment (PT0006194N) sought to:

  • introduce into companies' cultures and organisation the idea that reconciliation of work and family life is a right and duty of employees, and a company responsibility;
  • improve women's living and working conditions and the sustainability of family life; and
  • create more jobs, more self-employment and more companies providing family and home help and services.
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