Role of public employment service in reconciling work and family life

The increased attention that has recently been given to the issue of reconciling work and family life has motivated Slovenia’s Employment Service (ZRSZ) to examine the possibilities of playing a more active role in this matter. One research project analysed the attitudes of employees and employers towards reconciliation and identified some directives for the ZRSZ to follow.

About the project

The research project ‘Reconciliation of work and family life in Slovenia: Role of the public employment service’ was carried out by a group of researchers from the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana in 2008. The project sought to examine the framework for reconciling work and family life in Slovenia and to present empirical data about reconciliation and the challenges faced in achieving work-life balance in Slovene companies. Both aims were regarded as relevant for considerations about the Employment Service of Slovenia (Zavod Republike Slovenije za zaposlovanje, ZRSZ) playing a more active role in the implementation of and support for reconciling work and family life policies and measures.

Legislative and social policy framework

The research establishes that there is a long tradition of national regulation regarding paid parental leave and the provision of publicly subsidised childcare services, which has been seen as beneficial in helping parents to combine work and family obligations (SI0603019I). Unlike the situation in other post-communist countries, Slovenia’s statutory regulations concerning parental leave and the provision of public childcare services did not deteriorate in the last 10 years. The law regulating this area is the Parental Care and Family Benefit Act (Zakon o starševskem varstvu in družinskih prejemkih (in Slovene)). Among the measures that have been identified as directly easing work–family balance are parental leave arrangements and childcare arrangements and benefits. The employers and trade unions did not show a keen interest in work–family issues; according to the research, the important change in public discourse was enhanced by endeavours of the governmental Office for Equal Opportunities (Urad za enake možnosti, UEM) as well as empirically documented academic work.

Empirical research on reconciliation

Research methodology

The empirical part of the research was based on the analysis of data obtained within a research project on reconciling young people’s work and life, conducted in 2005 and 2006. Subsequently, an online survey of employers and managers was performed in October 2008.

The 2005–2006 project included telephone interviews with 882 persons aged between 22 and 35 years, along with focus groups comprising 70 young people from the same age group and 30 parents. This age group was chosen because it had been identified in previous research projects (Černigoj Sadar and Brešar, 1996; Kanjuo Mrčela and Černigoj Sadar, 2006; Ule and Kuhar, 2003): according to this research, persons in this age group bear the greatest burden in terms of ‘production and reproduction’. Young people reported the following conditions as being necessary for a positive decision to have a child: a permanent employment contract, resolution of a housing problem and reasonable financial resources. Young people who had no children reported fewer problems in the workplace, and no gender differences were identified in this group in terms of negative experiences at work.

The online survey sought to answer questions regarding managers’ and employees’ perception of employees regarding work–life balance, along with measures offered by employers, and the role of the ZRSZ in reconciling work and family life. The questionnaires were sent via email to members of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Slovenia and the Slovenian Association for Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations. Some 90 people from different organisations answered the survey.

Reconciliation measures requested

The employers and managers in the online survey reported that employees most often demanded the statutory forms of reconciliation, such as additional parental leave, part-time work, flexible working time arrangements, home work and paternal leave. They reported that employees are also interested in some reconciliation measures that are above the statutorily defined ones, such providing a crèche in the company, career breaks, financial support for childcare and a number of other measures – such as afternoon childcare facilities, additional time off, flexible schedules, and additional pension insurance.

Gender, company size and employer perceptions

The survey also shows that among the employees who are interested in the use of reconciliation measures in organisations, women featured more often (62.7%) than men (37.3%). There was also a statistically significant relationship between company size and the commitment of trade unions to reconciliation issues: in bigger companies, trade unions are more often actively involved in the promotion of reconciliation policies and measures. Moreover, the research findings show that the employers and managers perceive a number of reconciliation measures as being primarily positive for employees and often fail to grasp the benefits that these measures have for the employers.

Involvement of ZRSZ

According to the research, the ZRSZ has not been as actively involved in activities concerning reconciliation measures. Some of the proposed measures encouraging the more active involvement of the ZRSZ include the following:

  • reconciliation themes should become a part of the ZRSZ communication with employers as well as with prospective employees. The ZRSZ should play an active role in educating employers and (potential) employees about the potential benefits of reconciliation policies for employers, thus helping to overcome outdated stereotypes on optimal work organisation, gender work and caring roles;
  • the ZRSZ could facilitate the exchange of positive experiences of good work–family practices among employers as the most successful strategy for encouraging organisational change.

References

Černigoj Sadar, N. and Brešar, A., ‘Material quality of life in various life cycles’, in Černigoj Sadar, N. (ed.), Quality of life in Slovenia, Družboslovne razprave, Vol. 12, No. 22–23, Ljubljana, 1996, pp. 72–83.

Kanjuo Mrčela, A. and Černigoj Sadar, N., ‘Starši med delom in družino’ [‘Parents between work and family life’], Teorija in praksa, Vol. 43, No. 5–6, Ljubljana, FDV, 2006.

Ule, M. and Kuhar, M., Mladi, družina I staršestvo [Youth, family and parenthood], Ljubljana, FDV, 2003.

The Parental Care and Family Benefit Act, available online at: http://www.uradni-list.si/1/content?id=76045.

Mirko Mrcela, Organisational and Human Resources Research Centre (OHRC)

 

 

 

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