Work-life balance and family-friendly policies and practices are available and equally used by men and women, including at the top



  • Do existing policies, workplace practices and culture in the public sector support work-life balance, including at the top levels of management?

  • Do family-friendly policies and practices encourage equality between men and women by including incentives for men to take available care leave and flexible work entitlements?




Work-life balance policies and initiatives are crucial for developing a diverse public sector workforce and increasing women’s employment rates. Offering flexibility to men and women, mothers and fathers, allows for better family decisions. It also promotes better mental and physical health. Work-life balance policies can improve the public sector’s recruitment and retention efforts, and also contribute to higher productivity, leading to better services for citizens. Conversely, work-life conflicts can lead to absenteeism and stress, with excessive direct costs for the organisation.

Nonetheless, taking advantage of work-life balance policies is often seen as detrimental to employees’ career aspirations. Consequently, arrangements such as job sharing, part-time work, reduced hours or term-time work, and sick leave to care for a family member, are mostly used by low-paid, predominantly female workers in clerical and lower administrative jobs and are very rarely used at the top level of public sector organisations. A deep cultural change is needed to enhance the use of work-life balance measures by men and senior managers.



  • Elaborating strategies to change the current perceptions about work-life balance measures – including at senior management levels - used mainly by low-level and low-income groups of employees;
  • Developing deeper understanding and responsive actions about the perceptions of detrimental impact of the use of work-life balance measures on employees’ career aspirations;
  • Incorporating part-time and other time flexibility options in career patterns; ensure that employees who use workplace flexibilities are not penalised for doing so;
  • Facilitating continuous support systems for family (child, disabled, elderly) members’ care to enable women’s and men’s full participation in the workforce and empower men to take on more family-related responsibilities;
  • Promoting part-time as a temporary rather than permanent solution for employees with family obligations;
  • Developing polices and transition paths supporting the move from part-time work to full-time.



  • Insufficiently funded and resources policies and programmes promoting work-life balance;
  • Promoting performance management systems which directly or indirectly penalise the employees using part-time work or other family-friendly work arrangements;
  • Linking acceptability of work-life balance measures only to lower-level, low-paid positions;
  • Indirectly reinforcing gender roles and responsibilities (e.g. only providing ‘maternity’ leave);
  • Insufficient encouragement of fathers' equal uptake of available measures.





In Sweden, all leave conditions are the same for the private and public sectors. Paid parental leave includes a so called "father’s quota": As of 1st of January 2016 three months (60 days) of parental benefit are reserved for each parent, meaning these days are not transferable to the other parent. The regulation is gender neutral in language and design, but is in practical intended to encourage fathers to take out more parental leave. The aim of the amendment to the Parental Leave Act is to achieve a more gender-equal take-up of parental benefit. For civil servants, additional financial support is provided though collective agreement. Part-time work is possible for Swedish civil servants for family reasons; the legislation applies both to senior civil servants and general civil servants. Furthermore, flexible working time is encouraged. A special arrangement called “working time based on trust” allows public servants to arrange freely their working time.

New Zealand

The State Services Commission (SSC), a central public service department of New Zealand, provides leadership, coordination and advice on the management of the State sector. In 2005, SSC published the report Work-Life Balance: A resource for the State Services which informs government employees, employer and union representatives on work-life balance issues as well as guidance on how to implement actions and measures on the matter.
It includes a section on the roles and responsibilities of key parties in work-life balance:


  • Makes choices carefully about fit with organisation when applying for a job;
  • Identifies personal needs (‘must haves’ versus ‘like to haves’) and possible solutions (being realistic about what is possible);
  • Takes responsibility for discussing needs and possible solutions with their manager (and union if appropriate);
  • Takes responsibility for delivering their own workload as agreed with their manager;
  • Reviews and modifies arrangements as their personal circumstances change;
  • Is supportive of colleagues’ and manager’s work-life balance needs;
  • Participates in development of organisational work-life balance strategy.


  • Promotes work-life balance to members and employers;
  • Articulates the collective interests of members in work-life balance issues;
  • Works in partnership with employer to develop a work-life balance strategy and to improve work-life balance in the organization;
  • Leads members’ participation in developing work-life balance solutions;
  • When required, assists individuals to negotiate work-life balance solutions.

HR manager

  • Develops a work-life balance strategy that meets the needs of both the employees and the organization;
  • Ensures work-life balance is embedded in all HR policies (including provision of induction and training);
  • Supports individual managers to improve work-life balance in the organisation and find solutions to employees’ work-life balance needs;
  • Ensures training on work-life balance principles and practice is provided to managers;
  • Provides assurance to management that the work-life balance strategy is being appropriately implemented in the organization.

Line manager

  • Explicitly communicates support for work-life balance initiatives;
  • Walks the talk/leads by example;
  • Implements organisational work-life balance strategy (including managing risk-averse work environments);
  • Works with individual employees to manage work-life balance fairly and creatively and to find individual solutions (by challenging existing practices, identifying scope for flexibility, identifying opportunities as well as limitations).

Senior manager

  • Sets the environment that will make work-life balance work;
  • Walks the talk/leads by example, by modelling work-life balance in his/her personal life;
  • Sets work-life balance performance expectations for managers, so that they find solutions to employees’ work-life balance issues;
  • Leads the development of the work-life balance strategy;
  • Manages Ministerial expectations of staff and the organization;
  • Ensures that the wider context makes work-life balance possible.