NewsSeptember – WLB

WLB update: Kick-starting 2019 with a European directive on work-life balance

Work-life balance part 1

One of the deliverables of the European Pillar for Social Rights and part of the ‘New Start’ initiative to address the work-life balance challenges faced by working parents and carers, is an EU directive on worklife balance proposed in April 2017. This initiative seeks to take into account the developments in society over the past decade to enable parents and other people with caring responsibilities to better balance their work and family lives and to encourage a better sharing of caring responsibilities between women and men.

After 5 months of trilogues on the EU work-life balance directive, the co-legislators have reached a provisional agreement.

Many existing European employment laws consolidate the rights of workers and fight poverty. This latest piece of legislation provides a mix of employment rights, measures to fight family and child poverty, and especially helps working parents and working carers to keep their jobs. But what is left of the original proposal of the European Commission? Should we view the glass as half empty or half full? See our first reaction here. Following ratification of the agreement by the co-legislators, we will closely monitor the transposition of this directive into national legislation.

In addition, the Commission has just eleased a new thematic report prepared by its network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination: Family leave: enforcement of the protection against dismissal and unfavourable treatment. This report, authored by Annick Masselot, focuses on gender equality and work-life balance. The European Commission adopted in 2017 a proposal for a Directive and a Communication to support work-life balance for working parents and carers, strengthening and expanding several legislative measures regarding parental leave and flexible work arrangements. In the context of this new Commission initiative, this study aims to provide information on the enforcement of the protection against dismissal, discrimination and unfavourable treatment of pregnant workers and workers exercising their right to take family leave, including issues of compensation, reparation and sanctions, as well as the role of national equality bodies, in the 28 Member States and three EEA countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It reviews the enforcement and potential obstacles/hindrances in practice of the rights relating to the protection against discrimination, unfavourable treatment and dismissal, highlighting the main experiences in Member States with such enforcement by judicial (courts) and equality bodies.

Work-life balance part 2

Families need adequately paid leaves but they also rely on care Services every day. These services are crucial for their chances to reconcile the different aspects of their lives such as family, work, care, leisure, education, as stated clearly in the European Commission package on work-life balance, which also included proposals for boosting investment in reconciliation Services such as long-term care and early childhood education and care. While we continue to support EU and national discussions in the fields of disability and long-term care through various initiatives to build 21st century community-based services for families, we have also launched a new call on the European Union to boost the supply of accessible, affordable and quality childcare. Our recent paper, A new EU deal for childcare: includes the following elements:

  • The need for a systemic two-generation approach to childcare both as an investment in the health and education of children and as a support to parents in reconciling work and family life;
  • Key EU frameworks which support investment in childcare, with an important role for revised Barcelona targets;
  • The multiple benefits of childcare as a measure to support child wellbeing, education and cognitive development, a social inclusion measure that prevents and reduces poverty and social exclusion, and an crucial employment support measure for parents;
  • The childcare that families want: it has to be accessible, affordable and of high quality; it has to be diverse, and adapted to the emerging realities in the world of work; it must be available for children below 3 years of age;
  • Recommendations for a #ECEC2030 Roadmap to guide the development of a 2030 agenda for childcare based on a mix of policy, targets, funding and monitoring.

A 2-year Thematic Working Group was launched in Autumn 2018 by DG EAC of the European Commission, and will bring together national experts and European organisations interested in the topic to advance discussions on quality early childhood education and care, with a special focus on inclusion and on staff development. More here.