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Programme for Prosperity and Fairness

Framework I Annex IV

-National Framework for the Development of Family-Friendly Policies at the Level of the Enterprise

  1. Introduction

       The objective of this Agreement is to support and facilitate the development of family-friendly policies at the level of the enterprise. The achievement of this objective will be supported by the National Framework for Family Friendly Policies to be established within the context of this Agreement. The National Framework will focus on supporting and facilitating family-friendly policies through the development of a package of practical measures that can be applied at the level of the enterprise.

  2. Context

       The development of appropriate measures to assist in reconciling work and family life is important to underpinning economic, social and equality objectives. At a policy level the 1999 EU Employment Guidelines have detailed the importance of designing, implementing and promoting family-friendly policies. Similarly, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) has indicated a need for striking a balance between work and family responsibilities. As articulated in Section 4.3, the development of an accessible, affordable, quality childcare infrastructure is critical to supporting the reconciliation of work and family life. This Agreement considers, however, that there are a range of other measures that can contribute to the reconciliation of work and family life.

       The emergence of a tightening labour market and the increased emphasis on human resources as a key competitive element serve to underpin the importance of developing innovate ways of maximising the available labour supply. Similarly, the importance of facilitating equality of opportunity for men and women in the workplace also underscores the desirability of developing policies that can assist parents in reconciling work and family life. Family-friendly policies can serve a dual purpose of contributing to the needs of the business as well as meeting the needs of employees with family responsibilities.

    The challenge in developing family-friendly policies relevant to the level of the enterprise is to find ways of developing approaches that reflect the reality of the workplace. Identifying different options that have the potential to meet the many diverse needs of different employers and employees is especially problematic. In order to be effective, such options must meet the following objectives:

    1. enhance the opportunity to reconcile work and family life

    2. and contribute to the effective and efficient operation of the enterprise.

  3. Family-Friendly Policies

       Appropriately designed Family-Friendly Policies can bring benefits to both employees and employers. For employers, the benefits can include:

    • the retention of skilled and experienced staff
    • reduced absenteeism
    • improved productivity
    • a more highly motivated workforce and
    • an enhanced corporate image

    From the perspective of the employee the benefits can include:

    • an opportunity to better balance their working and family lives
    • greater equality of opportunity between men and women and
    • a fairer sharing of family responsibilities between men and women.

       This National Framework does not attempt to impose any single measure or model of non-statutory family-friendly policy or practice. Both ICTU and employers (IBEC and Public Sector employers) are committed to the development of family-friendly workplaces and will encourage and support the development of such workplaces in every practical way. There are many examples of family-friendly work practices and policies to choose from, depending on the needs of both employees and employers. The following are examples of family-friendly practices that are appropriate for discussion at enterprise level by agreement between employers and unions:

    • Job-sharing
    • Work sharing
    • Part-time work
    • Flexitime
    • Flexi-place/Teleworking
    • Term-time working

    Within the provisions of existing legislation, the following issues are also appropriate for discussion at local level:

    1. Maternity leave
    2. Adoptive leave
    3. Parental leave
    4. Force Majeure leave

  4. National Framework for Family-Friendly Policies

       The government and the Social Partners agree that a National Framework for Family-Friendly Policies should be established to support family-friendly policies at the level of the enterprise. The purpose of this National Framework will be to identify actions to be undertaken by the Social Partners at national level which support the development of family-friendly policies in the workplace. The focus of this activity will be to support and guide the voluntary development and implementation of family-friendly policies at the level of the enterprise in accordance with the objectives detailed in paragraph 2 above.

  5. Key Activities

       IBEC, Public Sector employers and ICTU agree to undertake the following actions within the National Framework:

    • Promote the implementation of family-friendly policies in accordance with the objectives detailed in paragraph 2 above.

    • Identify relevant options for enterprise-level family-friendly policies and practices.

    • Assess the impact of such policies and practices with regard to the objectives outlined in 2.

    • Review the outcome of the ME Family-Friendly Project undertaken by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and propose relevant action to develop family-friendly practices.

    • Develop practical guidelines at national level to assist in the implementation of family-friendly policies and practices at enterprise level.

    • Develop a Code of Practice, within the context of the existing legislative framework, on the manner in which statutory Parental and Force Majeure Leave can be taken.

    • Identify any potential barriers and impediments to the provision of family-friendly policies that meet the needs of working parents and identify possible solutions to such difficulties. In this connection, management, unions and employees could, jointly and on a co-operative basis at enterprise level, examine ways of overcoming any such barriers that may exist: consultation with local childcare groups/providers should be considered in this context.

    • Disseminate information on appropriate and relevant national and international experience with regard to the operation of family-friendly policies in the workplace.

    • Identify best-practice and disseminate it to employers and trade-unions.

    • Monitor and report on developments in respect to family-friendly policies, and

    • Provide training to management, union, employer and workplace representatives on the identified relevant family-friendly options and on best practice methods of implementation.

  6. Support Structures for Implementation

       A National Framework Committee will be established charged with the task of implementing this agreement. The Committee will be comprised of representatives of IBEC, Public Sector employers and ICTU. The Committee will be supported by a secretariat provided by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and additional support, where appropriate, will be provided by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The activities of the National Framework for Family-Friendly Policies above will be supported by a specific budget to be provided within the Human Resources Development Operational Programme.

  7. Monitoring and Review Mechanisms

       The National Framework Committee will monitor and review progress on an annual basis.