Family Friendly Work/Life Balance

Background

Family Friendly Working and Work Life Balance (FF / WLB) refer to policies and working arrangements that facilitate men and women to achieve a better balance between work and family life. These include a variety of working arrangements, including statutory entitlements such as Carer's Leave, Maternity Leave and Force Majeure Leave, and other non-statutory forms of organising work such as flexitime, jobsharing, eWorking and term-time working. These practices are beneficial to both workers and employers and are a priority for trade unions as members in all regions and sectors seek access to them to balance their work with their responsibilities and choices outside the workplace.

Under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness the Government, IBEC and Congress agreed to work together nationally to identify actions that could be undertaken by them at national level, to support the developments of family friendly policies in the workplace. The focus of the activity was to support and guide the voluntary development and implementation of family friendly policies at the level of the enterprise.

A National Framework Committee was formed comprising representatives from Congress, IBEC, the Equality Authority , Department of Social and Family Affairs, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Department of Finance, Department of An Taoiseach and the committee was chaired by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Guidelines - Toolkit

The toolkit is designed to provide the trade union negotiator, with information and resources to assist in negotiating and developing workplace family friendly/work-life balance policies.

The information included is as a support and resource for trade unions. It is intended to provide information and is not a legal document or interpretation.

During the project Congress held a series of regional seminars for trade union officials and representatives and a number of focus groups were held to assist Congress in finding out what Trade Unions need to assist them to move the family friendly/work life balance agenda forward. It is clear that the main stumbling blocks for employers and trade unions in making progress in this area are

  • a lack of information on the options available and
  • no clear method for beginning a process of developing family friendly/ work life balance policies and arrangements.

This guide therefore, sets out to provide information, practical suggestions and examples in a concise, accessible format.

Firstly, it defines some of the family-friendly and work-life balance solutions that are currently operating successfully in Irish workplaces. This section includes background on how to deal with challenges associated with particular working arrangements.

Secondly, the toolkit outlines the basic legal entitlements for those with caring responsibilities, such as leave arrangements, the rights of part time workers and other relevant legislation. This toolkit is provided for information purposes and does not purport to be a legal text.

Thirdly, this toolkit provides resources which can be adapted and used, ideally in partnership with management and employers, to make real progress towards achieving work-life balance policies for members.

Using this Toolkit

While the toolkit is one complete publication, the individual sections can stand alone and are cross-referenced. Sections 2 and 3, Rationale and Background and Principles should, however, be read first for an overview of the need and rationale for these arrangements and the key trade union principles underpinning family friendly / work life balance policies and arrangements.

  1. INTRODUCTION
    This section outlines how the toolkit is structured and how it can be used.
  2. RATIONALE & BACKGROUND
    This section details the rationale and benefits of family friendly / work life balance policies and also presents some recent research and policy.
  3. PRINCIPLES
    This section sets out the key trade union principles informing family friendly / work life balance policies and arrangements.
  4. DEFINITIONS & CHALLENGES
    This section describes the main non-statutory family friendly / work life balance working arrangements and outlines some of the challenges involved in negotiating them
  5. STATUTORY ENTITLEMENTS
    This section provides an introduction to legislation specifically related to family responsibilities.
  6. GETTING STARTED
    Advice and outline process on how to begin negotiating for the implementation of family friendly / work life balance policies at workplace level.
  7. ASSESSING NEEDS
    This section provides guidelines and sample questionnaires which can be used to ascertain the needs of members in the workplace
  8. MODEL AGREEMENT
    This section contains a model workplace agreement between employers and trade unions that can be adapted or used as a base for individual workplaces.
  9. MAINSTREAMING
    To ensure that family friendly / work life balance policies become part of organisational culture, it will be necessary to incorporate a family friendly attitude into the everyday policy and action of the organisation. This section provides some information on the mainstreaming process.
  10. NETWORKING
    This section outlines the benefits of networking with other Unions and Branches on this topic and suggests ways of creating local Trade Union Family Friendly / Work Life Balance networks.
  11. RESOURCES
    This section contains back up information materials for developing the various family friendly/work life balance issues raised, namely
    1. Relevant ODEI (Office of the Director of Equality Investigations -The Equality Tribunal) Decisions
    2. List of examples of European Case Law
    3. Force Majeure Leave Determinations
    4. Qualifications for Carer's Benefit
    5. Future Legislative Developments
    6. Calculation of Broken Parental Leave
      (Appendix A of Equality Authority Booklet, About the Parental Leave Act)
    7. Legal Entitlements - Sections from Acts on more favourable provisions permitted.
    8. Worksharing
      (Department of Social and Family Affairs Information Booklet SW105)
    9. eWorking in Ireland - Code of Practice
    10. Pensions Checklist
    11. Framework Agreement on the Development of Family Friendly Policies at Enterprise Level
      (Programme for Prosperity and Fairness)
    12. Relevant Family Friendly / Work Life Balance Web addresses
    13. Sources and Select Bibliography
  12. GLOSSARY
    Glossary of acronyms used throughout the toolkit.