Authors: Niall Crowley
The reconciliation of work and family life includes statutory leave arrangements, flexible work organisation and working time arrangements that enable employees with caring responsibilities to have both a career and a satisfying private and family life. It further includes opportunities to return to paid employment for those who have left the labour market to raise children and/or care for family members. It also includes provisions to protect against discrimination. It is a focus for equality bodies in their work on the ground of gender and, in some instances, on the ground of family status.
Reconciliation of work and family life and work-life balance are issues of concern to many equality bodies and have been a focus for important initiatives by a number of equality bodies.
However, it is clear that a large number of equality bodies have not seen these as priority issues on which to concentrate any significant amount of resources. In part this is due to a lack of resources, in part it could be due to identifying these issues as lying beyond a mandate that is focused on combating discrimination.
Reconciliation of work and family life, however, lies at the heart of any ambition for gender equality. It enables a more effective participation in and contribution to the workplace by women and men with caring responsibilities. In a context where caring responsibilities are unequally shared between men and women, a focus on reconciliation has particularly enabled greater participation by, and equality for, women in the workplace and in the labour market.
Reconciliation of work and family life also opens up the broader field of work-life balance. This includes a focus on reconciliation of work and family life but expands this to encompass the full spectrum of life experiences. Work-life balance lies at the heart of workplace equality on the gender ground and across all the other grounds of discrimination. It has a particular importance for people with a disability; older people; lesbian, gay and bisexual people in same sex couples; people seeking to fulfil various religious obligations; and minority ethnic people responding to diverse cultural imperatives.
The purpose of this perspective is, therefore, to support equality bodies to take up work on these issues, to further develop their work on these issues, and to deepen their contribution to combating discrimination, to gender equality and to equality on a range of other grounds through peer learning on progress made by equality bodies in different jurisdictions on these issues. It will also enable and shape Equinet’s contribution to supporting the work of equality bodies on these issues and to contributing the learning from this work to policy formation as appropriate.
This Equinet perspective is based on a roundtable discussion of the Working Group Policy Formation on the work of equality bodies on these issues and on a survey of Equinet members about their work on these issues.