Employer, not employee, needs driving work-life balance programs: report

Report by HRDC and Statistics Canada shows many firms have a long way to go in becoming family-friendly workplaces
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 10/30/2003


he majority of organizations aren’t helping employees, particularly women, achieve work-life balance according to a report by Human Resources Development Canada and Statistics Canada.

“Many organizations may still have a long way to go in fostering climates that promote the integration of work and family,” the report stated.

While more than 30 per cent of employees in Canada said flextime is available to them, access to other family-friendly work arrangements was “extremely low.” Two-thirds of Canadian firms do not have formal policies that would help work-life balance, such as part-time work, flexible work hours or child and elderly care services.

The study also found that access to family-friendly programs was consistently linked to establishment characteristics such as industry and company size and was virtually unrelated to employees’ personal or family characteristics.

Bob Glossop, of the Vanier Institute of the Family, told the

CanWest News Service

that he was disappointed with the results of the study and it shows programs are being introduced to meet the needs of employers, not employees.

“We’re still being driven by market dynamics rather than a genuine recognition that employees today carry family responsibilities into the workplace,” he said.

Women: A source of untapped human capital?

Women had lower participation rates in flexible work arrangements than did men, and this held within occupation and industry.

The report said this suggests that, even within the same occupations, women may perform tasks that are less amenable to flexible time or place.

“Although part-time work appeared to increase the flextime and telework participation rates for women, more research is needed to determine whether the flexibility afforded through part-time work comes at the expense of earnings, benefits, training and promotional opportunities,” the report stated. “These questions are of particular policy interest as women part-timers may represent a source of untapped human capital as suggested in their high levels of education, tenure and job-specific knowledge.”

Who is using flextime?

The data from the study,

Part-time work and family friendly practices in Canadian workplaces

, suggests that access to family-friendly practices is virtually unrelated to the personal needs or family characteristics of its employees.

There was little or no increase in participation rates either for mothers in two-parent families, or for lone parents, compared with other women. Nearly 35 per cent of women with children reported using flextime, virtually the same proportion as women who did not have children.

Access to family-supportive practices was highest among well-educated employees in managerial or professional jobs and flextime and telework were most available to employees working in small workplaces such as those with fewer than 10 employees.

Employers hurting themselves

Organizations that don’t offer family-friendly working conditions are not only hurting their employees, they’re hurting themselves, the report stated.

That’s because family-friendly practices are likely to increase staff commitment which can enhance productivity and lower turnover costs.

The report was based on data from the

1999 Workplace and Employee Survey

conducted by Statistics Canada. It is the latest release in the

Evolving Workplace Series

, a joint project by HRDC and Statistics Canada. To read the full 76-page report,

Part-time work and family-friendly practices in Canadian workplaces

, click



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