A Eurofound survey investigating family-friendly working policies in companies in six European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden, UK) finds that employers take family-friendly working seriously and have put in place a range of policies to support this, especially in areas such as flexible working and parental support.
The results of this survey are timely in the context of EU attempts to encourage women to enter and remain in the labour market, and to ensure good quality employment for all. The survey is also relevant to the European debate on demographic trends, specifically an ageing workforce, which require increased labour market participation from all those of working age.
Work–life balance can also help both men and women to participate in a more balanced and equal way in all areas of life including work, family life, private life and society in general. If all workers could combine their working life with family caring responsibilities (both for children and ageing dependants), this would help more people to remain in the labour market.
In the current difficult economic times, many employers feel they want to retain their skilled and experienced staff rather than having to spend time and money competing for the right kind of talent and skills once the economy grows once more. If employers can offer flexible working which helps employees to balance their life and work, and at the same time gives some flexibility to employers to react to changes in the economic environment, this can be beneficial to both employers and employees.
This study shows why a European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life would be so important.