Work-Family Balance and Health: Can Québec Draw Inspiration from Government Policies Implemented in Other Jurisdictions? A Summary

The issue of work-family balance (WFB) has not been given much attention in terms of its impact on health. Therefore the purpose of this advisory is to examine WFB policies likely to foster the health of working mothers and fathers. The conceptual framework is innovative in that the analysis incorporates the impact of WFB difficulties on health, the role of the neighbourhood, working conditions and public policy in the work-family-health equation.

The statistical portrait of WFB in Québec reveals how the sizeable increase in the proportion of women in the labour market, particularly mothers, has contributed to the emergence of WFB as an issue, similar to what has occurred in many jurisdictions around the world. According to the Québec data, time conflicts seem to be a significant contributing factor in the stress experienced by working parents.

Current research on WFB confirms the results of a literature review on the topic conducted by the INSPQ in 2005. WFB problems directly affect the quality of life and the health of working parents. Though certain working conditions can exacerbate WFB problems and their impact on health, in contrast, others can alleviate them. Examples are the support of an immediate superior, certain control over one's work, or a proactive workplace that can implement organizational practices that foster work-family balance.

The key issue addressed by this advisory is the role of the state in WFB. A comparative analysis of various government programs in family policy and labour legislation in Québec and eight other jurisdictions shows that Québec is well-positioned in terms of measures included in its family policy. However, while maintaining and consolidating its achievements, Québec should focus efforts on adapting the labour market to the reality of working parents, particularly in allowing more time for family, or at least greater flexibility in managing their time.

In light of the comparison with what is being done elsewhere, action paths emerge in terms of public policy likely to improve WFB and the health of working parents in Québec. In terms of public policy measures that would support families, these action paths are the following:

  • Consolidate the public daycare system
  • Increase the flexibility of the Régime québécois d'assurance parentale (RQAP) (Québec Parental Insurance Program)

And with regards to legislation covering labour standards, the following action paths should be pursued:

  • Increase the number of annual vacation days and days off to fulfill family responsibilities
  • Increase flexibility with regards to time (such as flex-time) and location of work
  • Strengthen workplace support for WFB.
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