More Time for the Kids

Civil service to become more family-friendly: Summer camps, shorter days for more parents.

Civil servants will be able to leave work at 3 P.M. once a week to spend time with their children, a report the cabinet adopted two weeks ago stipulates.

The report, initiated by former Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Holander, recommends improving working conditions for parents, especially mothers, in government ministries and other agencies. It also recommends promoting women in proportion to their numbers in the work place.

The report stipulates, for example, that employers must give employees 72 hours notice of meetings that begin after 3 P.M. Women will be able to return from maternity leave gradually, and public institutions are to run day camps for the children of their employees during summer vacation.

The report was written by the director of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in Israel, Vered Suweid. The agency is part of the Prime Minister's Office.

Among its recommendations are to evaluate employee by their productivity, not the number of hours they work, and to promote women to senior positions in accordance to their representation within the organization.

The cabinet adopted the report with no debate and no objections. It appointed an interministerial team, headed by Acting Civil Service commissioner Ehud Prauer, to examine implementing the report's recommendations in the ministries and government bodies.

The recommendations, which will be presented to the cabinet again in August, will apply to some 70,000 civil servants.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office for the Advancement of Young People, Students and Women, Gila Gamliel, said she hoped the recommendations will eventually be extended to the entire public and private sectors.

The report provisions significantly expand civil service provisions under which women with children under eight years old may leave work an hour early.

The civil service is considering extending these provisions to parents with older children.

"Due to these recommendations, young couples can realize their right to parenthood and family," Gamliel said. "The recommendations are intended to enable combining parenthood with career, and to encourage women to work outside the home, enabling both parents to share parent responsibility. They will lead to more egalitarian parenthood," she said.

The interministerial team's main mission will be to adapt the report's recommendations to the civil service's work requirements. For example, the team will have to decide how to alleviate parents' conditions in offices that provide public service in the afternoons.

The report calls for enabling flexible work hours, introducing work-from-home arrangements, coordinating employers' expectations with the workers' family needs and holding a publicity campaign to deepen awareness for family support.

One of the report's central recommendations is to relieve women of the need to prove themselves by staying long hours in the office.

"The demand to measure work quality by the number of hours the workers stay in the office is unreasonable," says Gamliel.

"Work quality must be measured by productivity and achievements. Thus, employers will be able to recognize women's achievements, some of the work will be done at home and women's wages will rise. The difference today between men and women's wages stems mainly from the overtime [men put in]," she says.

The report's writers consulted with Finance Ministry officials and Gamliel is convinced the ministry will be able to adopt most of the recommendations, as they are not an added expense but save money.

"If parents go home earlier one day a week but maintain their productivity, it will streamline the workplace," she says.

"If offices operate day care centers and summer schools during the summer holidays, parents won't have to take time off from work any more. Everyone will want to be more efficient if they don't have to punch a time clock," she says. .