Changing our workplaces, our policies and our culture

A Business Breakfast for Employers, held last January, highlighted the importance of family-friendly measures (FFMs) within companies. This event is one of many activities planned as part of the “Equality beyond Gender Roles” project, undertaken by NCPE in collaboration with GRTU and MEA, to address the disparity between men and women in work and family life.

Panel speaker Ms Abigail Psaila Mamo,  CEO at GRTU declared that a good number of companies are in fact offering FFMs such as telework and flexitime, even if these are not listed in their company’s handbook.

However, despite this and the introduction of many state-driven initiatives (such as Klabb 3-16 and Breakfast Club ) which continue to assist caregivers in engaging in employment, the number of men making use of FFMs is still shockingly low.

In a presentation delivered by Senior Lecturer on Gender Studies, UoM, Dr JosAnn Cutajar, stated that studies show that in 2014, parental leave was availed by 473 women and 13 men[1]. Such figures validate men’s difficulties to enroll in a caregiver role. One reason being, the traditional gender stereotypes in Maltese society.

In a Tedx Talk broadcasting during the event, Ms Marie-Anne Slaughter stated that “when a man decided to be a caregiver, he puts his manhood on the line”. Thus, the kind of cultural change required means re-socializing men and women, through education and the measures that encourage them to enrol in non-stereotypical roles.

This sentiment was further echoed in the words of the Hon. Minister of Social Dialogue and Civil Liberties Dr Helena Dalli, who stated that this topic should not be addressed from a women’s perspective but from a humane perspective. “In order to reach full equality, we have to change our workplaces, our policies and our culture”, stated Hon. Dalli. Reference was also made to the present Labour Law that focuses mainly on men as breadwinners.

Work-life balance is therefore not only dependant on personal perceptions, but also on the adoption of policies by companies which seek to offer FFMs that can create a work-life balance for employees.

Mr. Josef Bugeja, GWU General Secretary, remarked that employers need to start implementing an equal playing field for all employees. “Abuse can be monitored just as sick leave”, stated Ms Renee Laiviera, NCPE Commissioner. “The key is to have creative human resource management”, continued Mr Joe Farrugia, MEA Director General who believes that both the employer and the employee need to be flexible in choosing the best measure to accommodate family and work responsibilities.

“Strengthening FFMs will benefit both companies and employers”, contended Dr Vanessa Borg, CEO at Argus Insurance. By offering a vast majority of FFMs that can fit every employee’s need, her company has managed to attract the best people, increased productivity and has built a stronger rapport with clients.

In fact, studies outlined by Dr JosAnn Cutajar, show that work-life balance boost morale and decreases risks of depression and substance abuse. Overall, men who made use of parental leave reported greater life satisfaction and a closer bond with their children[2]

Juggling work and family is therefore not a women’s problem – it’s a social and economic problem – and companies should make efforts to ensure that it is handled effectively, for a more egalitarian future.

 

References:

[1] Government of Malta, Public Administration HR Office (2015) 2014 Family-Friendly Measures Report

[2] Haas, L. and Hwang, C.P., 2008. The impact of taking parental leave on fathers’ participation in childcare and relationships with children: Lessons from Sweden. Community, Work and Family, 11(1), pp.85-104.

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