This month has three main news, two from the institutional side as the Work-Life Balance Directive is slowly but steadily moving through the co-decision process and the last one on the growing #IwantWorkLifeBalance community.
First, the Council: the discussions are still ongoing, two more working parties were held during this month. It seems that Member States have not yet found an agreement on the text, but we are confident that the Bulgarian Presidency will move forward and possibly reach a compromise by the summer. Unfortunately Council documents are not public and in no way can citizens monitor the work of their Governement Representatives in Brussels like they can do for their elected Member of the European Parliament. Therefore, we are unable to provide you with details of the discussions held in those meetings but we remind all our readers that you can always contact your Governement and ask them to swiftly adopt a position without watering down the Commission’s proposal. In particular, the 3 key areas that would need to be present in the Council position include the following:
- Non-transferability of at least 4 months of parental leave.
- Payment of parental leave at least at the equivalent of sick leave pay (and in any case not lower that 75% of previous earnings).
- Possibility to take leave flexibly, to get closer to individual needs but also reduce the disruption of business for companies, especially micro-entreprises.
Second, the European Parliament: the discussions have really started. The responsible committee is EMPL but FEMM shares competences and it will contribute to the report with an Opinion. JURI Committee is also working on an opinion.
JURI (Legal Affairs): the most advanced committee in terms of calendar is JURI. You can find here the draft report and the amendments. You can watch the video here. Calendar: amendments were presented in JURI on 21/2, vote in JURI 29/3.
FEMM (Women’s Rights and Gender Equality): a discussion over Work-Life Balance was held on 19/2 where the EESC Opinion rapporteur presented the EESC Opinion. You can watch the video here. Calendar: consideration of draft opinion on 27-28/03.
EMPL (Employment and Social Affairs): a joint public hearing of EMPL/FEMM was held on 21/2 where a number of expert presented their views and debated with MEPs. You can watch the video here. You can read the speakers presentations here.
The draft report from the rapporteur, MEP Casa will be available early March. Discussions at the hearing were mostly positive, all experts (with the exception of UEAPME) and MEPs expressed their support to the directive and recognized the importance of this text. Experts stressed the importance of non-transferable and well-paid leaves to improve men’s take-up rates and to avoid discrimination of lower income families. In particular, experts agreed that those two elements are fundamental to reduce the gender gap, including gender pay gap. Concerns were raised on how to ensure that these norms do not put excessive burden on SMEs and in particular on micro enterprises. One of the experts underlined, in this regard, that the proposal contains part of the answer to this question, through the provision that would allow parents to take parental leave flexibly, by reducing their working hours or by taking leave in short blocks, allowing parents to reduce their work but still be in employment and therefore also reducing the need to hire replacements for companies.
In February, COFACE was also invited to speak at a stakeholders’ consultation organized by the FEMM Committee: here is what we said. The same day, six of the NGOs of the “Work-Life Balance coalition” met with MEP Casa to present their view and show the unity of civil society behind this file.
Third and final point for February: the #IwantWorkLifeBalance movement kept growing and we have now a high number of supporters, including Commissioner Thyssen and a number of MEPs and Members of the EESC. Have a look to our photo album here. And if you also want to join the movement, get in touch with us!
Last word: have you heard about the March of the Penguins? It starts on March the 1st!
Read more about the #IwantWorkLifeBalance campaign