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This case study was supplied by IBEC

-Rationale for Family Friendly Work Practices

   Work/Life programmes in IBM have been established to help employees better manage their work and personal lives. These programmes accomplish this by creating a flexible work environment which is sensitive to an individual's needs and responsibilities.

According to IBM, it is in their best interest to help employees balance the pressures of work with the demands of home. Through work/life programmes, employees have greater access to the workplace and are more productive because their personal issues can be easily addressed.

-Family Friendly Work Practices

IBM in Ireland offer a number of work/life programmes :

  • Flexible Working Arrangements, including part time, flexitime and the imminent introduction of job sharing.
  • E-Working, allowing some employees to do some or all of their work from home.
  • Mobile working, working from various locations.
  • Extensive sick leave arrangements.
  • Maternity leave, insuring no loss of pay.
  • Leave of Absence Programs.
  • Tuition Refund.
  • Special leave.

   In July 2000 IBM announced a $50 million global fund to develop and support work/life programmes in communities where its employees live and work. IBM have created a global work/life fund because they recognise that IBM will always be a demanding environment within a highly demanding industry. Dependent care support helps men and women focus on work and engenders commitment to their business and the needs of their customers. The primary focus of this fund will be dependent care programmes that help employees with their work/life balance, specifically in the area of child and elder care. A number of programmes are already under development in Canada, Mexico, Germany, the United States and Ireland.

   IBM in Ireland have been working to be part of the roll-out of these first programmes and is developing a new crèche in Dublin to provide high-quality childcare for 12 hours per day. This is another step in their worldwide drive to be Employer of Choice and is a significant commitment to IBM in Ireland employees. The Fund is designed to enhance IBM's business by increasing the productivity, retention, and career success of our key talent. The company regards this as a strategic business initiative, not a charitable endeavour.

   Dependent care supports are inextricably linked to IBM's work culture and work environment. Over the last year, the Global Workforce Diversity staff have engaged in a number of activities to understand and address talent "drains" that are caused by a series of discrete but interrelated factors. Many of these factors are linked to employee efforts to achieve work/life balance. IBM has looked at the root causes of the workload escalation that have been reported globally on employee surveys; examined barriers to full participation that dependent care responsibilities cause outside the US and continue to examine any distinct barriers to the advancement of women globally.

   According to IBM, one area of concern is women with families who work nights (IBM have a few hundred in this category) that are expected to hold down, what is in effect, two full time jobs. Where shift work is concerned particularly in a manufacturing environment, flexibility on work life programmes are reduced and this impacts on women with families more than any other category.

   IBM believes that there is a need for awareness education, not only for men and women but for Irish society in general. The company argues that working women with families make a huge contribution both to the organisations they work for and to society in general. They give up large amounts of social time, not to mention regular sleep. Making and maintaining a balance becomes much more difficult. Consequently, their special needs require examination in the Irish context.