TOOLKIT COMPANIES

for SMEs and social enterprises

This part of  Toolkit is addressed to companies, and namely on SMEs and social enterprises, which offer relevant employment opportunities for women but at the same time face more difficulties than bigger or market – quoted companies in implementing work – life balance policies.

What is it?

The toolkit is intended as an easy-to-read tool on issues related to work-life balance. It is mainly addressed to operators in Public Employment Services (PES), to people with reconciliation needs and to SMEs. The toolkit is assembled with the intent of disseminating existing solutions and available resources to all those who are looking for a better work-life balance in their life or for their company.

In this sense, the Toolkit is a practical and educational guide carrying out an examination and a detailed study of the existing policies and measures on reconciliation, focusing on services and rights of individuals, as well as on SMEs and their obligations and incentives. In the following paragraph, it will be highlighted the aim of the toolkit and a short description of its content and the people it is addressed to.

Goals and purposes

The toolkit aims at informing a heterogeneous audience about the meaning of reconciliation and to provide a guiding framework without claims of being exhaustive on policies and measures adopted on European, national, and local level. Policies and measures are targeted at fostering a better balance between time dedicated to professional life and time committed to care for depending and/or non-self-sufficient people, to self-care, as well as to sports, politics, training and education which are complementary to one’s own private life and make it satisfying.

The final goal of the toolkit, in addition to being used in employment services or in working places, is not only to provide information about work – life balance but, ideally, to be a practical and easy tool for its users. It will be of support in providing first answers and facilitating a first “re-scan” of one’s own reconciliation needs, in laying the ground for the users to find inspiration, opportunities and/or services that were not known before and thus may make the management of these needs easier.

Structure

The toolkit consists of an introductory part describing the project and outlining the context of the suggested activities and of the actors involved.

It subsequently focuses on the definition and characteristics of reconciliation, analysing its various aspects and introducing the rights of people to Work-Life Balance (WLB) needs and exploring opportunities and services they could turn to.

At the end of the toolkit, you can find some handy attachments, conceived to help recipients to find their bearings in assessing reconciliation needs and their possible responses and existing opportunities, in legal terms, in organizational opportunities as well as in terms of services.

Recipients

The toolkit is addressed to operators who already have prior knowledge on work – life reconciliation issues as well as to people who approach it for the first time and want to get information about it.

The toolkit is to be considered as a dynamic and versatile tool, both with regards to the features of the areas where it is used in and to its users’ needs.

Within the project’s greater scope, this toolkit is particularly addressed to job centres and services advisers in their work with users’ re-entry into the workforce.

The toolkit is conceived to assist and accompany people with reconciliation needs who are seeking for new answers and perspectives about their WLB needs, as well as for SMEs willing to offer reconciliation options to their employees or upgrade their existing offer.

In Italy, the main normative framework regarding work – life reconciliation is enunciated in Law No 53/2000 ‘provisions for the support of maternity and paternity, the right to care and education, for the coordination of time in the city’ which regulates matters about different types of leave, maternity, paternity and parental leave, right to care and education and coordination of time in the city. More closely, art. 9 (as amended by art. 38 Law No 69/2009 of 18 June 2009) establishes the measures to conciliate work time and off-time in support of a flexible working schedule.

Leaves are a substantial part of work – life reconciliation policies; however, they are not the only existing and recommended measure to be taken. Along with them, to be considered there are also measures intervening on working time, flexibility in the organization of work and care services system as well as economic transfers to support the care load, particularly with regards to childhood and births.

main normative and regulatory tools currently in effect in Italy:
Statutory maternity leave

Statutory maternity leave is the right of absence from work, for the mother for a period of maximum 5 months.

It is illegal for the employer to put women to work during these 5 months.

Maternity leave can be requested by all female employees, including those working in public administrations and private companies. It can also be requested by consultants, by those who have an apprenticeship contract and by a working partner in a social cooperative.

Maternity leave can be used:

  • two months before childbirth
  • three months after childbirth;

Alternatively, it may be used:

  • one month before childbirth;
  • four following months (in order to work up to the end of the 8th month of pregnancy, the employee must obtain a medical certificate proving that such choice wouldn’t cause any damage to the health of the unborn baby and/or the expectant mother)

For further information on maternity leave, who’s entitled to it and what the allowance provides for, refer to INPS website.

Paternity Leave

Paternity leave is a type of leave only the father who is in employment is entitled to. It can be requested by the father after the birth of the child(ren) with the purpose of caring for and spending more time with his partner, the new-born(s) and older children.

A father in employment can apply for paternity leave autonomously or converting maternity leave only in case the child has been abandoned by the mother or the mother is seriously ill or has died.

Law No 92/2012 of 28 June 2012 instituted mandatory leave and voluntary leave, as an alternative to maternity leave, which, the father, adopter or foster parent who is in employment can ask for, before and not past the 5th month of life of the child.

A father in employment is entitled to 5 days of mandatory leave which can also be taken discontinuously for any childbirth, adoption or fostering related events occurred in between 1 January 2019 until 31 December 2019.

Voluntary leave for the father is bound to whether the working mother chooses not to avail herself of one day of statutory maternity leave. The day off taken by the father cuts back the final term of the maternity leave.

In the Budget Bill 2020, the government included the extension of paternity leave to 7 days in the family bonuses 2020.

For further information on starting date, duration and allowance, refer to INPS website

Parental Leave

Parental leave is an institution aimed at balancing parenting with working, granting to both parents the possibility of spending more time with their children.

Parental leave is a period of absence from work that may be applied for by both mother and father in the aftermath of maternity leave. Wages accrued during days of parental leave are paid by INPS.

Natural, adoptive, or foster parents are entitled to parental leave during the term of the contract, within the first 12 years of life of the child or inclusion in the family unit (regardless of the age of the child at the moment of adoption or taking into foster care and not past the 18th birthday). The total amount of leave taken by both parents cannot exceed 10 months. It may be extended up to 11 months if the father is absent from work for a period of three months both in a continuous and discontinuous way. Parents can ask for parental leave also simultaneously.

For further information on how it works and related allowance, refer to INPS website

OTHER TYPES OF LEAVE

Sick child leave

Both parents, alternatively, are entitled to be absent from work for a duration of time corresponding to the illnesses of each child who’s not above 3 years old.

Furthermore, each parent, alternatively, is entitled to take time off-work, within the limit of 5 working-days per year, for the illnesses of each child aged 3 – 8 years.

In case of sick child leave, parents are entitled to be paid by the employer.

Daily leave for breastfeeding

The mother, employed either on a fixed-term contract or an open-ended contract, is entitled to two breastfeeding breaks of two hours until the child turns one years old. In case of a twinning birth, breaks duration is doubled.

It also applies in case of adoption and time doubles in case of adoption of two children, also when those are not coming from the same family but have been adopted at the same time.

The father can apply for daily breastfeeding breaks in case the mother – employed on a fixed-term contract or on a permanent contract – expressly chooses not to avail herself of maternity leave or belongs to one of the categories not entitled to breastfeeding breaks. If the mother is in mandatory or voluntary leave, the father cannot apply for it.

For further information on how it works and related allowance, refer to INPS website.

Two years paid leave for serious disability

The two-years paid leave are outlined in the Law No 388/2000 (art. 80 paragraph 2, then picked up again by art. 42, paragraph 5 Legislative Decree No 151, 26 March 2001) integrating the provisions in Law No 53/2000 which introduced the possibility of obtaining a two years paid leave for parents of people with serious disability

It also applies for employees living together with their brother or sister with serious disability provided that neither of their parents is still alive.

The Legislative Decree No 119/2011 of 18 July 2011, thoroughly reviewed the matter of the 24 months paid leave, particularly with regards to those who are entitled to it and how to access it.

For further information on how it works and related allowance, refer to INPS website.

Paid and unpaid leave for events or special circumstances.

The worker is entitled to a three-working days paid leave in case of death or serious illness of spouse or relative up to second degree or domestic partner, provided that domestic partnership is proved by registry office certification. Alternatively, in cases of documented serious illness, employees may agree on different working arrangements with the employer.

For further information look up art. 4 paragraph 1, Law No 53/2000 of 8 March 2000.

Paid leave for domestic violence victims

To ease the psychological recovery of women victims of gender-based violence, Art. 24 from Legislative Decree No 80/2015 of 15 June 2015 provides for female employees, both in the public and private sector, to be entitled to a paid leave of maximum 90 working days within a 3 years period, to go through the certified protection procedure.

For further information on its procedure and related allowance, refer to INPS website

Leave of absence from work on the ground of Law No. 104/1992

Employees with a recognized serious disability (Law No. 104/1992) are entitled to paid leaves. Employees with care obligations towards a person in a grave situation, are entitled to three days per month leave provided that the person with disability is a relative or a close relative up to the third degree.

For further information on its procedure and related allowance, refer to: https://www.inps.it/nuovoportaleinps/default.aspx?itemdir=46180

OTHER TYPES OF LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Employees are entitled to other types of paid leave:

  • Leave for personal reasons (study leave). The Workers’ Charter grants to working students, including university students, the right to paid study leave for a maximum of 150 hours in three years; to be used also in one year only.
  • Leave for elected or public officials (elected in local administrations, participating to electoral operations) right to paid leave (as an alternative to being placed on hold for the full duration of the mandate) when elected in office.
  • Paid leave: volunteers for civil defence. Paid leave for rescue activities and assistance in situation of emergency or in calamitous events (total amount of 90 days in 1 years, maximum 30 consecutive days); rescue in emergency situations (total amount of 180 days in 1 year, maximum 60 consecutive days); for planning and training (total amount of 30 days in 1 years, maximum 10 consecutive days).
Remote working

Remote working is a work arrangement agreed upon between the parts, enabling the employee to work outside of the workplace with the support of a computer and internet connection. This layout has to be authorized by the employer and arrangements have to be made to define availability, tasks and days, within the weekly working hours established by the contract.

The choice of remote working is always reversible, both by the employer and the employee. Remote workers are entitled to the same rights as “traditional” workers, for example, with regards to training and union activities.

In the private sector, there is no legal framework for remote working, regulations are based on the contents of collective agreements.

For further information on how to apply the framework in an enterprise, refer to: https://www.inps.it/Circolari/Circolare%20numero%2052%20del%2027-02-2015.htm

Smart working

Smart working is a non-conventional working model based on flexibility and autonomy with regards to location, working hours and tools to use in addition to a corresponding increase of responsibility on the employee with regards to the outcomes. The key concept is flexibility of location and time. Work is partially done inside the working space and in part outside of it, agreed upon by employer and employee. The agreement has to be inside the contract scope (CCNL), but it defines the practical working conditions: working hours and mandatory availability.

Smart working is protected by the equality criteria: equal pay with the employees in the workplace, same bonuses, safety, limits of working hours and right to education.

The employer has to take care of safety and proper functioning of technological instruments assigned to the employee to work.

Public and private employers agreeing on smart working are required to give priority to the requests coming from workers in the three years following the end of maternity leave, or employees caring for children with disabilities in accordance with art. 3 paragraph 3, Law No 104/1992 of 5 February 1992.

For further information on how to apply the framework in an enterprise, refer to Ministero del Lavoro

Flexible Hours

Law No 196/1997 of 24 June 1997 established the standard weekly hour load to 40 hours, with the opportunity, as national collective bargaining provide, to set a lower amount of time (e.g. 6 hours). Law n. 196/1997 art.13 assigns the capacity to modify the weekly working hour load to collective bargaining.

Individual flexibility with regards to working hours, enables the individual worker to vary his/her presence on the workplace through a set of fixed rules, on daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

The more common hours flexibility arrangements are:

  • staggered hours – starting and finishing time are specific to an employee within a set time window, to give space to a better balance with family needs (e.g. drop off/pick up children from school)
  • compressed hours – established by contract, it enables the employee to skip lunch break to leave work earlier.
  • fixed time where employees overlap in the workplace – specific timeslots for the employee to be in the workplace. Considering the total daily working hours, the employee is entitled to choose the starting/ending hour. Having one or two allocated timeslots meets the needs of the enterprise allowing room for the life -work balance need of the employee.
Hours bank

Hours bank is a contractual institution enabling workers to bank worked hours in an individual “account” to be taken as leave of absence at a time in the future over the year for personal or family reconciliation needs.

Only employees are entitled to banked hours. Conditions and terms are agreed between managers and individual employees within the limits of the contracted amount of hours. (Circolare INPS No 39 of 17 February 2000).

Viable tools for work – life reconciliation addressed to SMEs and third sector

When focusing on SMEs it is evident that pinpointing needs, in that context, is more simple than in a job centre/service, also considering that data and characteristics of people working there, with a range of contract types, are already present in the personnel department. However, it is convenient to look back to fields of knowledge mentioned and defined in paragraph 3.1.1:

  • Gender-disaggregated employees’ p
  •  
  •  

and especially to

  • individual balance needs.

Designing a reconciliation plan could be challenging and sensitive work, especially if there are no precedents in such context to get inspiration from. The following chart may be helpful to outline the reconciliation plan by presenting possible specific aims and tools required to implement them.

With regards to a broader knowledge, in general, it is widely accepted that maternity and paternity leave are the most known and used tools while, with regards to workplace related organizational reconciliation measures, flexible time, part-time, remote working and in-company child-care are the most known ones.

In the following chart, possible reconciliation plan goals and corresponding viable actions are presented.

Reconciliation plan goals

Viable existing tools

Maximization of the organization of time and working spaces

Part time

Flexible hours (start/exit – lunch break – working modules – redefinition of working hours);

Job sharing

Remote working

Smart working

Hours bank

 

Meeting personal and specific needs to support employees with care obligations

Additional Leaves

Leaves

Child and teenagers care and support facilities

Orientation

Support services for the elderly/people with disabilities

 

Increase free time

Laundry/ironing service with delivery to the workplace

In-company paperwork and errands handling services (e.g. health and medical examinations booking)

On-line shopping with delivery to the work place or take-away service.

Internal delivery service for personal paperwork

Cleaning and maintenance services (plumbers, painter, mover, green spaces caretaker, etc.)

 

Promoting welfare actions and ties with the workplace.

Consultancy and counselling services

Career path mentoring and coaching

Award system

Training

Actions to keep employees absent from work for a long time connected with the workplace

Work shadowing activities

There are several SMEs which implemented reconciliation measures: some of them did it in a structured way, some others introduced only few measures.

Overall it is considered that it is significant to introduce such measures and provide an efficient response to reconciliation needs of SMEs employees: to develop WLB measures and practices is part of a wider renovation process which will have positive outcomes for both employees and enterprises.

To this end, SMEs define their focus by answering the questions: “Where are we at now?” “Where would we like to be?”

In order to answer to these questions, the enterprise needs to weigh in their initial position with regards to reconciliation on the grounds of these categories:

  • lack of practices
  • initial state
  • ad-hoc practices
  • strategy

To this end, see the self-assessment chart presented as a possible support to the organization, preparing the ground to run an assessment of all that pertains to the promotion of WLB.

 

How to use it:

In the left column, under every heading, there are key words describing the current state of the organization with regards to the introduction of WLB practices and measures.

The right column shows possible developments to be implemented structurally.

 

CURRENT SITUATION OF THE ORGANIZATION WITH REGARDS TO WORK -LIFE BALANCE

(ASSESSMENT TOOL)

PROGRESS OF THE ORGANIZATION WITH REGARDS TO WLB

 

Level of assessment

Level of action

 

Lack of practices

(absence of WLB practices/policies)

1.1 Make a WLB assessment and needs analysis.

Approaching the concept of WLB

Analysis of reconciliation needs

Outline a business case

 

Initial state

(there are some practices/policies or plan outline)

1.2 Developing a strategic approach

Review the business case

The vision

Identify clear key areas of action

WLB policy development

 

Ad-hoc practices

(there is a good number of activities/actions and a structural commitment)

1.3 Plan and implement a WLB program

Exploring possible WLB actions

Outlining a work plan

Developing a communication strategy

Enforcing the plan and corresponding WLB policies

Strategy

(Policies and practices put in place are well-promoted and widely used)

1.4 Assess the validity of the WLB actions

–        Monitor WLB plan

–        Assess WLB plan

–        Reassess the needs (identify possible new/different needs)

 

     

See below a combination of the 4 suggested levels of action.

LACK OF PRACTICES

1.1 Make the WLB assessment and needs analysis.

 

–        Approaching the concept of WLB

–        Analysis of reconciliation needs

–        Outline a business case

 

“What is private life – work balance? What are the issues of private life – work reconciliation?”

To answer these questions, we need to start by getting introduced to the concept of work – life balance. Acting on these problems means to focus on the context where the problems arise: the work place and different life needs.

Tackling work life reconciliation issues in an organization implies, as a first step, to identify and get to know the reconciliation needs of the employees (needs analysis). This phase starts with gathering information to support the organization to make the future WLB strategy suitable for the needs of both employees and the enterprise.

For example:

  • review existing policies (mandatory leaves, …) and practices: do they work?
  • gather information on the reconciliation needs of employees (commuting, after-school facilities, flexible hours options, remote working…).

Developing a business case includes also actions undertaken by enterprises as a direct response to the employees needs and it may consist of:

  • Consider existing normative and legislative requirements (e.g. parental leaves);
  • Identify key-elements for the enterprise and on the organizational level, such as: attracting/retaining employees, increasing performance or productivity, creating and sustaining employees’ commitment and retention, reduce the stress of employees…)
  • Run a costs/benefits assessment to underline whether the implementation of WLB measures has had an impact on the health of employees as well as an increase in productivity;
  • Consider the distribution of the issue in the organization, e.g. in an event of an enterprise, or as an HR initiated event.

There are various business cases to get inspiration from in order to promote, among others, the matter of work – life reconciliation in SMEs:

Sources:

https://www.welfareindexpmi.it/welfare-index-pmi/

https://www.welfareindexpmi.it/rapporto-2019/

https://www.welfareindexpmi.it/buone-pratiche/

https://www.fisac-cgil.it/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/GUIDA-CONCILIAZIONE-2018.pdf

https://www.centroeinaudi.it/images/abook_file/rapporto_wa_er_7_11.pdf

 

 

INITIAL STATE

1.2 Developing a strategic approach

–        Review the business case

–        The vision

–        Identify clear key areas of action

–         WLB policy development

Where the business case had not been developed in recent times, arrangements should be made for a revision.

In this case, what should be checked is whether:

  • the business case is still relevant, considering the current enterprise strategy, employees’ needs, possible recent law changes, for example about leaves….
  • Unions were involved at the moment of drafting it.

One of the main questions occurring in a change of strategy is: “Where would we like to be?”

The answer to this question is usually in the company vision statement and, thus, in the description of planned future arrangements in a specific time frame (five, ten years). The answer is also in how the organization of work will be when the targets set to meet the reconciliation needs of the employees will be reached.

Once the organization has set out vision statement, the management, the employees and possibly the unions, will start to identify the key-areas of actions/policies to launch the plan, the material outcome of the vision statement.

To develop WLB measures and policies is strictly connected to their identification:

  • flexible hours, extension of leave according to needs and not to legislative directions, remote working, …

It will be essential to introduce measures, tools and policies to respond to WLB needs expressed by the employees in order for those to be deeply rooted in the structure of the enterprise,

AD HOC PRACTICES

1.3 Plan and implement a WLB program

–        Exploring possible actions and policies aimed at WLB

–        Outlining a work plan

–        Developing a communication strategy

–        Enforcing the plan and corresponding WLB policies

Once established the reconciliation needs in the key-area of action, the next step is to determine possible solutions. In this phase, the enterprise starts the process of examining a range of viable actions.

This phase thus considers the wide range of solutions, all different types of actions/policies for private life – work reconciliation fitting in different categories such as:

  • Flexible organization of work;
  • Leaves;
  • policies for those who have care obligations;
  • actions on health and well-being (work – life stress prevention and management);
  • culture of WLB. Intervene on the organizational model to change the behaviour of employees and management (work organization and leadership type).

How to develop a WLB plan?

For each of the areas of action and solutions mentioned in the previous phase, the development of a plan may include:

  • a general objective for each area of action;
  • specific goals and actions;
  • accountability (clearly stating who’s accountable for the implementation of the plan, who, for example, are the project managers, those who have obligations in their areas of work);
  • Timing (including crucial steps);
  • Identifying systems of outcome assessment and essential information in evaluating progress;

Communication strategy is paramount especially when undertaking any process of managing change. Human beings are inherently resistant to change and introducing new reconciliation policies entails change. Resistance could be based on people’s behaviours as, often, reconciliation measures are perceived as benefiting some categories at the expenses of others.

A robust communication strategy aims at showing how policies and benefits with regards to quality of work are inclusive of all the employees. Communication needs to be planned and integrated in the wider WLB plan.

The implementation of the WLB plan implies:

  • engaging staff in the implementation: make people feel as part of the project
  • accepting that new processes need time.
  • be flexible and adapt according to what is needed.
  • be aware of the eventuality that timing may change during the process.

Strategy

1.4 Assess the validity of the WLB plan

–        Monitor WLB plan

–        Assess WLB plan

–        Reassess the needs (identify possible new/different needs)

The organization monitors the plan in order to evaluate whether the planned activities are actually taking place. The monitoring of the plan could be organised around annual deadlines, the end of the solar year/fiscal year and it often shows in a report on achieved goals with regards to the what was set in the beginning.

To assess the impact or the validity of policies and practices introduced on the structural level in the enterprise means to answer the question: “Did the introduction of WLB policies make any difference for the staff? And for the organization?”

The issue of WLB is constantly changing, as much as organizations, needs of individuals and frameworks do. In this phase it is convenient to reassess the content of the plan trying to detect new needs of the employees which may have emerged in recent times as well as those needs arising from different sources.

It will be fundamental to look into reconciliation measures operating in the enterprise. This is useful because the existence of a constant assessment system, already points to the fact that a reconciliation strategy is in place in the enterprise.

There are different levels of testing that the validity assessment could take into account.

There are three levels characterized by the intensity of activities and awareness of WLB practices developed by enterprises.

Level 1 pertains to workers satisfaction.

The level of employees’ satisfaction/approval of policies and measures implemented by the enterprises is assessed through ad-hoc tools (e.g. survey). Although this is the basic level, it is crucial for enterprises because it supports the sentiment of employees about WLB issues and it can provide significant feedback about re-addressing and implementing reconciliation measures in the following years.

(Find attached example of level 1 TOOL)

Level 2 pertains to the validity of reconciliation measures provided by the enterprise. It also monitors the percentage of employees using/participating to the different measures by analysing variations over-time.

(Find attached example of level 2 TOOL)

Level 3 pertains to the relationship between the use of WLB measures by workers and the productivity rate of the enterprise. The aim is to confirm whether reconciliation measures provided for by the enterprise are in place and attuned to an actual improvement of the enterprise performance (productivity rate, revenue, etc).

(Find attached example of level 3 TOOL)

T0 stands for the first year of the implementation and it is required to set the starting point in order to monitor and assess the coming years.

Employees benefits and collective bargaining

Employees benefits generally consist of the total of benefits and services provided by the enterprise to its employees conceived to improve their private and working life.

By amending the Income Taxes Consolidated Text (art. 51) and the incentives provided for by 2016, 2017, 2018 Stability Laws where substantial modifications with regards to benefits and services, extending their range of use as a form of alternative to efficiency bonuses, as far as it has been agreed upon in the enterprise.

The Stability Laws provide for incremented tax incentives for enterprises which draft employees’ benefits plans involving social partners, namely an agreement between enterprise and unions. In this way, the innovation on enterprise bonuses to be paid through vouchers for the purchase of services, functions only along with decentralized bargaining. In the past, employees’ benefits were provided unilaterally by enterprises to their employees. In this way they were not subject to ordinary taxation.

However, to the extent they fell within contractual obligations, taxation applied. With the 2016 Stability Law (and subsequent laws) result bonuses and benefits provided for by second level (company) bargaining were tied to enterprise bargaining and transformed through tax incentives into vouchers giving access to a whole range of services and employees benefits. The employee can also choose to convert the bonus into cash (rather than services), without any tax burden. As of today, public employees are still excluded from employee benefits.

With the 2017 Stability Law, and especially 2018 Stability Law, the favourable tax regime was expanded with regards to potential beneficiaries and employee benefits services.

In 2017, the yearly amount of performance bonus exempted from ordinary taxation rate has been increased up to EUR
3 000 (EUR 4 000 when the employee gets actively involved the plan management), limited to a maximum of EUR 80 000 (previously – Stability Law 2016 – EUR 2 500 up to a maximum income of EUR 50 000)

Concerning the services, the range extended to include insurance coverage about being non self-sufficient and having serious illnesses, including family members, in addition to social services and education and/or training for the children.

The 2018 Stability Law introduces public transportation in the employees’ benefits providing for a 19 % deductibility from expenses related to local public transport passes (up to EUR 250). The 2019 Budget Bill did not change the income limits, including reconciliation measures in the Family Policies Fund. In 2020 there were no substantial changes, except for the rise of the tax exemption limit for electronic luncheon vouchers (from EUR 7 to EUR 8, and contextual reduction for those in paper, from EUR 5.29 to EUR 4) and an intervention on mixed-use company cars (with a new taxation related to emissions).

The current range of services part of employee benefits varies greatly, from family income support, to education and parenting, to health care, up to free time and business-related concessions. This definition includes all methods and models of flexible work, hours and location provided to the employee to facilitate the managing of private life and professional life balance.

For a summary, refer to the following chart divided into services for the family, for the individual and ancillary services.

Family

Individual

Consumer goods and free time

Nursery school; school-books expenses; medical examination for family, insurance plans and social and health services; psychological support; support for studying; financial benefits for mortgage and income integration.

Sport; gas vouchers; luncheon vouchers; language classes and training;

local public transport

Vouchers, business affiliation, spare time

According to data from the Ministry of Labour, in 2018 on 9 389 active contracts, 3 870 included employee benefits measures. Until recently, most of these measures and policies were available only in big enterprises. These enterprises can rely on robust actions packages as well as on bigger economies of scale. Small enterprises have had the most difficulties in accessing employee benefits measures.

The implementation of these measures is also linked to the distribution of the enterprises on the ground (higher presence in the North and centre- north) and to the production sector, first industries followed by tertiary sector, construction and social services.

More recent studies, such as OCSEL-Cisl (2018)[1] show an increase in the effect of employees and fringe benefits, even though those are still predominant in medium-sized and big enterprises. It is worth noticing how second level agreements in medium enterprises (from 50 to 249 staff) are overtaking big enterprises (250 – 999 staff) for 37 % to 22 %.

Small enterprises are also more active in comparison to their recent past. There has been an increase in bargaining about issues related to education and childhood, followed by perks for buying goods and services, prices regulated by vouchers and home-work transportation.

Local social bargaining

Local social bargaining is another tool to improve private life – work reconciliation. Local social bargaining is used more and more often which, backed by agreements reached either verbally or through platforms, aims at meeting the needs and necessities of a specific local context. It involves unions as well as administration and local associations. This bargaining supplements the traditional bargaining in the enterprises represented by the employer part and the unions.

In many contract renewals, employees’ benefits and sectoral welfare (specialized in subjects such as social security and complementary healthcare, including non-self-sufficiency) have become part of the bargaining. In some cases, these agreements also meet local bargaining and consultation, with the participation of local administrations and private service providers. For example employee benefits plans are beginning to be widely adopted with regards to children, and in agreement with local administrations, it gives the possibility to parent and children living in the same area to use of part of the services (a reserved percentage).

Social partners are an active part in the laying out of employee benefits plan and they are also part of local consultations regarding public policies and service systems. The play another crucial role through the form of patronato, a very similar institution to the citizens advice bureaus. Patronato is a form of organization recognized by the Ministry of Labour which provides social assistance and advice for workers and citizens; it is direct expression of unions, employers partners or associations.

Patronato advises and gives orientation about: maternity, parental leaves, elderly, disability, relation with bureaucracy, social exclusion, inclusion of non-EU workers and their families.

Furthermore, it provides information and technical assistance about:

  • social security;
  • social services, pensions and taxes
  • employment and labour market
  • health and safety on the workplace
  • Family and succession law (right to health and safety; prohibition of dismissal, resignation, right to return to work; maternity and paternity leave; support measures to increase birth-rate and to families; daily leave and sick child leave; parental leave; national and international adoption and foster care; children with serious disabilities; wages and social security terms and conditions).

Because reconciliation is a complex process and it involves different multiple actors besides families (administrations, enterprises, service-providers and social partners), it is essential to ensure access and provide valid information and directions with regards to available alternatives.

Law No 328/2000 (framework law for the reform of social assistance), extends the competence of patronato (and obviously local administrations) to those of social secretariats. In the frame of a local governance of social services, patronato is a fundamental public service in advising citizens about their social rights. In that sense, patronato is the base of the relationship between public administration and citizens by enabling the citizens to claim their rights.

[1] Ocsel- Cisl, (2018), National observatory on second-level bargaining, Report, Rome

See below two good-practice summary sheets of good practices implemented on the European level with regards to WLB.

Career path “return to work”

Name:

Career path “return to work”

(Karrierepfad “beruflich wieder einsteigen”)

Beneficiaries:

Men and women seeking to re-enter the labour market after a prolonged absence from the work place (maternity leave, care obligations…)

Country:

Germany

Organization:

Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Labour federal agency)

Duration:

In progress

In-depth description:

The labour federal agency has a significant focus on WLB. It coordinates a number of activities and services aimed at integration/reintegration in the labour market for men and women after a prolonged absence from work and it provides a specific support to those who have care obligations. The agency also provides information on children care and assistance policies and for other care obligations in the area.

The approach fits in a broader strategy of equality in the labour market so that there would be no gender-based exclusion as well as no exclusion because of care responsibilities. The work of job centre operators is supported by equal opportunities advisers providing consultancy on gender equality and WLB.

The program is available as an interactive platform and consists of 4 options:

–    change of job or career path;

–    work re-entry after a leave;

–    how to develop one’s own career;

–    Education and training.

For all those who want to integrate/reintegrate in the labour market, the platform offers a form of support which is articulated in 4 phases:

–    laying out the purpose: identify the reasons to want to integrate/reintegrate in the labour market;

–    choosing the most suitable option to one’s own needs. Provided solutions are: part-time, a new level in the career path, accomplishing tertiary education, training to become autonomous workers;

–    policies or tools to support entry/re-entry in the labour market (child care services or services for the elderly and/or people with disabilities, information on rights for workers with care obligations, advising on how to identify suitable formation offers, problem solving);

–    pinpointing possible success factors to re-enter the labour market: how to tackle a job application, how to go through the job interview, information on the different contract forms e.g. mini-job, temporary work.

Sources:

https://www.perspektive-wiedereinstieg.de/

For other available information on good and promising practices refer to: https://eige.europa.eu/gender-mainstreaming/good-practices.

Business Gender Equality Seal (IWEO)

Name

IWEO Business Gender Equality Seal

Beneficiaries

SMEs and people with care obligations

Country

Spain

Organization

Spanish institute for women and equal opportunities (IWEO)

Duration

In progress

In- depth description

The Spanish institute for women and equal opportunities (IWEO) is an autonomous body attached to the Ministry of the Presidency, Parliamentary Relations and Equality through the State Secretariat for Equality, it works to support progress of women in all areas of society since 1983.

The IWEO is also the national Spanish institute for equal opportunities with regards to gender equality directives.

IWEO manages several networks of companies where enterprises share and exchange good practices about reconciliation and sharing of the care load between men and women, for example:

·       The integrated network of enterprises “MORE WOMEN, BETTER COMPANIES” (153 business) and

·       DIE BUSINESS NETWORK (148 business).

Since 2010, each year the Ministry of the Presidency, Parliamentary Relations and Equality awards an equal opportunity badge as a recognition for the employers who implemented good practices aimed at reaching equal treatment and who promoted policies for equal opportunities between men and women in their enterprises.

There are already 148 enterprises awarded this badge which is to be used for advertising and commercial relations purposes. The badge is also used in the field of public biddings.

The badge is monitored yearly and reassessed every three years. The assessment considers 33 criteria, qualitative and quantitative, concerning:

1.     Equality plan and equality opportunities (consistency; proportionality of the policies, means, goals, terms, etc)

2.     Access to employment and work conditions, such as sex-disaggregated data on staff, positions, wages, measures aimed at work flexibility; private life and professional life balance and promotion of care load redistribution, etc.

3.     All awarded enterprises are integrated in a network of businesses known as Red DIE or DIE Business Network where they all share and exchange information and good practices on gender equality related policies and practices in the workplace; building direct contact among enterprises thanks to seminars and training; work group focused on specific issues such as reconciliation, sexual harassment protocols and subsequent harassment, gender pay gap, etc.

For other available information on good and promising practices refer to: https://eige.europa.eu/gender-mainstreaming/good-practices.