Flexible working arrangements such as career breaks and job sharing were introduced in the Civil Service in the mid eighties. While there was a recognition of the need to facilitate staff who wished to combine career and family life, the flexible working policies were also expected to make a contribution to reducing the high levels of unemployment in the country at that time - for example under the job sharing scheme two people could be employed to fill one post.
In more recent years the rationale behind the introduction of schemes such as Term Time and Worksharing has been to assist staff balance work and family responsibilities in line with Government policy under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.
Another consideration is the Civil Service's policy on gender equality - research has shown that lack of availability, and negative attitudes towards flexible working arrangements have contributed to the relatively low percentage of women in the more senior grades in the Civil Service. The development of a workplace culture, supportive of family friendly practices, will assist in the achievement of gender equality objectives.
The widespread availability of family friendly working arrangements has, in recent times, also been of major assistance to the Civil Service in attracting new members of staff and retaining existing staff. There are approximately 32,600 people currently employed in the Irish Civil Service.
Flexitime is an arrangement whereby staff are at work during defined core times but have flexibility to vary their starting and finishing times. Each Department/Office has their own detailed flexitime arrangements. Typically staff must be in work during the core times of 10am - 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 4pm. A person may start work between 8.30am and 10am and finish between 4pm and 6.30pm. A person may build up hours during a four week flexi period which can be taken as leave in a later period.
Worksharing is a scheme that allows staff to avail of an attendance pattern other than full-time. Examples of the attendance patterns include: mornings only, afternoons only, three days per week, four days per week, 9am to 3pm each day, week on/week off and three weeks out of four. Staff availing of worksharing are paid on a pro rata basis (for example a member of staff who opts to work three days per week will be paid 60% of the salary of a full-time member of staff). Details at - www.irlgov.ie/finance/publications/equality/circ3101.htm
Term Time allows staff to take either 10 or 13 weeks unpaid leave from June until the end of August allowing parents to match their working arrangements to their children's summer holidays. To be eligible a member of staff must have a child or children (up to 18 years of age) or be acting in loco parentis or be the primary carer for a person with a disability who needs care on a continuing or frequent basis. Details at - www.irlgov.ie/finance/publications/equality/circ3700.htm Also see - familyfriendly.ie/socialdepage.shtml
A career break is a period of unpaid leave from work of between six months and five years. A member of staff may take two career breaks during their career. A career break may be allowed for child care or domestic reasons, educational purposes or travel abroad. Details at - www.irlgov.ie/finance/Publications/otherpubs/circ1898.htm
Three days special leave with pay is available to a member of staff who is the father of a child born on or after 1 January 2000. The leave may be taken up to four weeks after the birth of a child. In the case of adoption, the leave may be taken within four weeks of the date of placement. Details at - www.irlgov.ie/finance/publications/equality/patleave.htm
At present there is one crèche for the children of civil servants. A second crèche is due to open before the end of 2001. In Budget 2001, £10 million capital expenditure was allocated for the provision of up to 15 Civil Service crèches over the next two years. Details at - www.irlgov.ie/finance/publications/equality/circ2801.htm