Work-life balance is a balance we create between our work and our personal life.
Women usually have problems with work-life balance because they not only work but also have many responsibilities at home like cleaning, cooking, taking care of children and elderly or disabled people. Such situations can create a lot of stress. A solution can be to divide housework with partner/husband. If a man takes half of the responsibilities at home, it gives a woman a chance to do her job well and also have time to relax.
Women spend fewer hours in paid work (so they work part-time) but more hours in unpaid work (taking care of the house and children). This affects career choices women make and limits chances of women to be successful at work and earn a lot of money. Equal sharing of parental leaves (when both men and women take some time off work to be at home with children), better public childcare services, and flexible working hours can help women to achieve better work-life balance.
Women who usually have to balance two full-time jobs (one that is paid and one that is unpaid at home) are more likely to burnout, have a nervous breakdown or feel that they are not good at their jobs and they are not good mothers because they do not have time and energy to fulfill all responsibilities well.
Work-life balance for women:
Work-life balance for parents and carers
The implementation of the Work-life Balance (WLB) measures is very important for women’s career advancement as usually women take caring responsibilities for family members.
On the 1st of August, 2019 the Work-life Balance Directive, which aims to improve families’ access to family leave and flexible work arrangements, has entered into European Union law.
The Work-life Balance Directive introduces a set of legislative actions designed to modernise the existing EU legal and policy frameworks, with the aims to improve the support of work-life balance for parents and carers, encouraging a more equal sharing of parental leave between men and women, and addressing women’s underrepresentation in the labour market.
Measures under the directive include:
- The introduction of paternity leave: under the directive, fathers must be able to take at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of the child‘s birth, compensated at least at the level of sick pay.
- Ensuring that two out of four months of parental leave are non-transferable between parents and compensated at a level that is determined by the Member State.
- The introduction of carers’ leave: workers providing personal care or support to a relative will be entitled to five days of leave per year.
- Extending the right to request flexible working arrangements to carers and working parents of children up to eight years old.
As a result of these measures, the directive aims to improve not only work-life balance but also contribute to an increase in women’s employment and families’ economic stability.
Access to affordable and good quality childcare services is important for work-life balance, but children are not the only ones that need to be looked after.
Ageing and disability rates are rising in the EU and as a result, push up the demand for long-term care services for older people and people with disabilities. Women of pre-retirement age do the bulk of informal long-term caring in the EU. The difference is remarkable in the 50-64 age group: 21 % of women and 11 % of men care for older people and/or people with disabilities at least several days a week.
Work-life measures which could be undertaken by the employer, education organisations in order to promote equal opportunities for women and men in labour market
The most usual measures for employers and educational organisations to support child care are the following:
- Establishing a company kindergarten (large enterprises).
- Conducting risk assessment which concerns nursing mother’s safety or that of her child from her working conditions or working hours.
- Establishing a room for children to do their home-work or wait for their parents to ensure after school care for older children.
- Providing assistance during school holidays and closing times of kindergartens (camps, short-term childcare).
- Consultancy services for parents.
- Financial support for individual parents.
The most usual measures for employers and educational organisations to support care for elderly and disabled dependents:
- Allowing and supporting emergency leave and short-term leave (a few days to a week) at short notice.
- Enabling carers to take long-term leave with the option to stay in contact and return to work. This could include some financial support e.g. by ‘topping up’ benefit payments while on leave.
- Allowing part-time work (reduction of hours) with an option to return to full-time work.
- Allowing flexible work-time arrangements for full-time as well as part-time workers (staggered hours, compressed working week, swapping shifts).
- Allowing home-based working (tele-working).
Types of flexible working
One of the most usable measures for WLB is the possibility to arrange the flexible working time. Common types of flexible working are:
- Flexitime: The workers work a standard core time, but can choose, within agreed limits, when to start, break and end their working day. Overtime or shortfall can be carried over.
- Staggered hours: ‘shift system’ in which the starting and ending work times for staff vary to allow staff coverage (i.e. longer opening hours) for defined periods (i.e. week per week, day to day). Two existing options:
- the working time is fixed and scheduled by the employer or the head of the department;
- the working time is arranged with the employer and is ‘self- managed’ by the staff within own department or office.
- Compressed hours: With this arrangement, the usual number of working days per week can be compressed: you can take a regular day off every week/fortnight, or a regular half-day off every week, etc. by either starting early or finishing late. In both cases, the overall number of hours remains the same.
- Annualised hours / Structured time off in lieu: work hours are assigned per year rather than per week and also in accordance with peaks activity or demand.
- First type: the length of the working time is per year rather than per week. Time is split into core hours to be worked each week and unallocated hours that can be used for peaks or demand.
- Second type: longer hours during the peak of activity or business needs are agreed. These extra hours are recorded and you can then take the time off (with pay) at a less busy time.
- Job sharing: sharing a job designed for one person with someone else;
- A full-time job is divided between two similarly competent part-time workers.
- Compensation is apportioned between the workers, thus leading to a net reduction in per-employee income uptime.
- Homeworking/Teleworking: working from home, implies making use of computers and other electronic devices to do work from home and communicate directly with the office base.
- Part–time: working less than the normal hours, however, there are many different patterns of part-time work. Part-time work can be organised in several different ways:
- Several fixed daily working hours,
- Other fixed cycles,
- Flexible working hours on demand,
Part-time contract can be agreed individually or (better)in collective bargaining.