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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
View the documentILO Publications
View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentFacilities and equipment
View the documentFamily benefit
View the documentFamily responsibilities, workers with
View the documentFemale-headed households
View the documentFreedom of association and the right to organize
View the documentFundamental principles and rights at work
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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Family responsibilities, workers with

Family responsibilities cover the care of and support for dependent children and other members of the immediate family who need help. National policies should aim at creating effective equality of opportunity and treatment for female and male workers, and for workers with and without family responsibilities.

All workers - both men and women - should be able to engage in employment without being subject to discrimination and, to the extent possible, without conflict between their employment and family responsibilities. They should be free from restrictions based on family responsibilities when preparing for and entering, participating in or advancing in economic activity.

The needs of workers with family responsibilities should particularly be taken into account when planning and developing or promoting community services such as childcare and family services and facilities. Public information and education programmes should be carried out on the situation of these workers. Flexibility in working conditions and in social security should be promoted through:

• the progressive reduction of working hours, and the reduction of the amount of required overtime;

• the introduction of flexible arrangements in working schedules, rest periods and holidays;

• the consideration of the place of employment of the spouse and of the educational possibilities for children in case of transfer from one locality to another;

• the regulation and supervision of terms and conditions of employment of part-time and temporary workers and homeworkers: all terms and conditions of employment, including social security, should be equivalent to those of full-time and permanent workers;

• the consideration of family responsibilities as valid reasons for refusal of an offer of employment (for the purpose of avoiding the loss of suspension of unemployment benefits).

The worlds of "work" and "family" have, for decades, largely been regarded as two totally different spheres in which men's and women's roles were diverse - and in some cultures still are. Men's commitment to paid work has been seen as central to their lives, and enterprises have developed a culture which values long hours of work. Women's commitment to paid work has been seen as secondary to, and limited by, their commitment to unpaid care work in the family.

In the more recent past, the opinion gained ground that changes in the traditional role of men in work organization were needed to ensure that women enjoyed equal opportunities at work. This is reflected in the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention (No. 156) of 1981, and in new national legislation on the matter. In the European Union, too, a Directive on parental leave was adopted in 1996.

C. 156: Workers with Family Responsibilities, 1981
R. 165: Workers with Family Responsibilities, 1981
C. 158: Termination of Employment, 1982
R. 166: Termination of Employment, 1982

→ see also Childcare and family services and facilities and Parental leave

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