How and why we do it – UNFPA Parentsmart employers case study week in Sweden

We have come far in Sweden within the area of work-life balance, parental leave and the possibilities for working parents, and many countries and companies want to get inspiration from the Swedish model. Now the time has come when an increasing number of Swedish employers have realized that they can no longer be satisfied with seeing the area as a hygiene factor that is “nice to have”, but rather as something that can affect the development of both their companies and society as a whole. But only if priorized by top management, and with more exchange of best practise across international borders. Some of these company leaders had the opportunity to discuss the topic during a week in May with guests from Belarus. Welcome to read about it below.

Swedish examples can inspire, but only local examples can have a true impact on local norms and attitudes
Some years ago Föräldrasmart Sverige AB hosted a study visit week for a delegation of 14 company representatives from Japan SvD Näringsliv 2014. Now we had the honor to arrange a case study program on demand from the UN agency UNFPA in Minsk, supported by MOST/EU to develop local initiatives and role model employers in Belarus – the way we believe in. To see it with own eyes, to listen, discuss and pose all possible questions to HR colleagues and parents in their true everyday environment here in Sweden.

Nineteen Belarusian HR managers and representatives for gender equality and sustainability initiatives in business, politics and society came to meet Swedish HR colleagues and experts in the topic area. A week long program with study visits, lectures and workshops gave them a better understanding of how it is possible and why Swedish employers do it – promoting work-life balance and long parental leaves for both mothers and fathers.

5 role model companies showed a Parentsmart mindset and activities in the area..
Five for the occasion selected companies – Sandvik, Ericsson, Telia, Ramboll and Netlight – welcomed the delegation to their Stockholm offices for great presentations and discussions with top level managers within HR, Diversity & inclusion and Legal, describing both parentsmart strategies and concrete activities connected to the Co vision and goals for sustainable and gender equal work places and societies. The connection to the UN Global Sustainability goals, especially No 5 Gender Equality, was clear and important for all host companies.

Ericsson Head quarters in Kista
Visiting the new very inspiring Netlight office


Meeting Swedish parents
One of the most interesting and important parts of the week was, according to the delegation, to meet local working fathers at each Co visit. Each company had asked 1-2 managers who had taken paternity leave to tell their true and honest stories – from their own worries and reactions from others to insights about the values with parental leave, also for the Co/org (what we call a Parentsmart mindset). A Swedish family evening also gave a lot of very appreciated and honest real life stories – both positive and negative experiences from Swedish parents among friends and neighbours of the Bruno family in Täby.

At Ericsson – one of the interesting working parent stories of the week
Swedish parents sharing their stories about combining work with family
More working parent/parental leave stories..

Increased exchange of experience cross borders clearly develops all..

To take some time to get other perspectives and learn together with  colleagues, politicians and parents in other countries is a co-creation process with impact in many ways. All the host companies here in Sweden were thankful for the questions posed by the Belarusian group. It made them stop and reflect for a moment about why they find it so natural and important to support a life with both work and family, and answer some tricky questions about how to make it happen in everyday work life, all over the organisation. These types of direct and challenging questions are key to understanding how all employers should continue to promote and support the combination of work and family, everywhere. How can global companies in Sweden spread norms, culture and guidelines to their foreign affiliates in countries with different legislation and culture? How can they promote parenthood-work not mainly as a challenge and cost but also like a strong asset developing  a balanced, sustainable and gender equal life for all, no matter where?

There are many ideas of actions to take, in both business, politics and the civil society. Some are easier to do in countries like Sweden, but a lot is possible to apply everywhere. The wrap-up workshop at the end of the week resulted in an acitivity plan with ideas from the case visits – to implement locally back in Belarus, and to be followed up by UNFPA and our team.


We look forward to follow up the local initiatives in Belarus – here Tiina with UNFPA project responsible Olga.

New Swedish standard about working parents
Now an increasing number of global employers and countries show interest in the Swedish experience in a more “hands-on best practice” way than before. The timing is right for important and concrete co-creation accross borders.
The first step will be the development of a new Swedish standard about employer strategies and support to working parents. Follow our work, we look forward to a very interesting autumn!

How important and interesting is the area of working parents for you? Contact us if you want to join the employer dialogues and exchange of experience:

/Tiina Bruno and the Föräldrasmart Sverige AB team
with partners (Whydentify, SIS (The Swedish institute for standards), Emparent and others)


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