Work-Life Issues

"A sustained and long-term commitment is essential so that women and men can work together for themselves, for their children and for society to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century."
— Mission statement, Beijing Platform for Action, FWCW.

Work Life Policy and Practice: Status of Implementation in the UN System

The data is compelling; equipping employees to better address their work-life needs is vital for the 21st century workforce.

Powerful forces, including compelling UN mandates to achieve gender parity at all levels in the organization in all occupational groups, have come together to require a dramatically changed work-force and work-place. The aging of the population and the changing demographics of the family – including the rise of dual career parent and single parent households - have changed the composition of the workforce. The explosion in technological resources – dismantling barriers to communication, enabling far greater connectivity, and resulting in a torrent of easily accessible information – has profoundly altered the way we work. And, most importantly, the realization that gender equality including in the representation of women, is now understood not only as a political imperative, but also as central to yielding improved products and productivity.

As a result, the importance of work-life fit and the need to integrate and harmonize personal and work lives has become an important ingredient for organizational success, including in the United Nations System.

In this context, from 2002, and in response to a request from the General Assembly, the Secretary-General began to present, through his reports on the “Improvement of the Status of Women in the UN System”, an analysis of progress toward gender parity’ and its component parts across the United Nations system. The importance of work- life policy and practice, including the need for effective Flexible Work Arrangements have been consistent themes covered in these reports. (Click here to see report exerpts)

The Secretary-General has also utilized the mechanism of the Chief Executive Board for Coordination (CEB), a body he chairs and consisting of all heads of entities of the UN system, to enhance coordination, coherence and harmonization of policies and practices in this, and other areas of the work of the United Nations. And, in particular, as of 1 January 2011 the newly created entity for women's empowerment, UN Women, is expected to lead the coordination and the change.

Messages, Statements and Reports

  • The management of sick leave in the United Nations system (Executive Summary) JIU/REP/2012/2

    Many UN entities are looking for ways to increase the representation of women. This JIU report supports the idea that increased use of FWAs will benefit women staff members by allowing them to address work life balance issues without having to use sick leave thereby creating a better environment for women. The report notes in paragraph 49 "The inspectors interviewed several counselors at various duty stations who indicated that a number of sick leave absences were due to conflict in the workplace, including work-life balance issues. Responses to the questionnaire also supported this view". Paragraph 64 states that "Women have disproportionate sick leave absenteeism rates across all age groups; and the discrepancy is greater when comparing younger women with their male counterparts. This has led to the EC looking into the reasons (which include looking after young children and elderly parents) and measures that could be taken to reduce absenteeism."
  • Work-family balance benefits families and society at large, says Ban
  • Secretary-General's Message on International Day of Families 15 May 2012

Flexible Working Arrangements

Staff surveys

Work Life Policies, Practice and Potential Expert Group Meeting 9-11 November 2010