Lessons from Slovakia

Sometimes finding solutions takes creativity. Slovakia has become innovative in its efforts to encourage businesses to support workers with families. In 2000 they started a competition called the Family-Friendly Employer “with a view to motivating Slovak employers to develop activities for the reconciliation of work and family life and actively promote equality between women and men. Within the competition 3 categories are evaluated: the family policy, the introduction of measures to promote equality between women and men, and the most original measure to benefit the family. The number of contesting organisations has been annually increasing.”

In comparison, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech just last week (May 8) about the state of the American workplace. She said, “Workers should have paid sick days, schedules that give them time for their family responsibilities, such as picking up children or taking them or parents to doctors’ appointments, and quality child care on the job. Also needed is paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or to deal with serious illness.” She goes on to say that there are about 22 million women in the US labor force who do not have paid sick days, and the Family Medical Leave Act does not allow for paid maternity, adoption, or sick leave.

Maybe we should start our own Family-friendly Employer competition here to draw attention to the challenges of being a working parent, because both mothers and fathers need support from their workplace and from society in order to have successful family and work lives. Mrs. Obama said she wants to focus on the issue of balancing work and family while she is in the White House—I hope the US sees some new legislation and more family-friendly practices in the near future.

—by MIR

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