Reaction Open Letter(1)

Call for swift transposition of the EU work-life balance directive

Swift transposition of the EU Work-Life balance Directive is key to foster a more
gender-equal economy of wellbeing!

Brussels, 6th December 2019

The meeting of the EPSCO Council on 9-10th December in Brussels is an important opportunity to pave the way for an environment and economy that are reconciliation-friendly. COFACE Families Europe calls on national ministers to swiftly transpose the EU work-life balance directive and to ensure that economic and social policies fulfil the needs during the life-course of families based on values of the 21st century: gender equality, social inclusion, access to education and non-discrimination.

Gender equality values must be at the heart of every EU economic action, as laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights (atts. 23 and 33), the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (art.153 (i)), the European Pillar of Social Rights (principle 2) and in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (primarily SDG 5). The advantages and positive impacts of a more gender equal society on our economy are well known: a boosted GDP, higher levels of employment and productivity, reduced gender pay gap, more social innovation, using the full potential of the workforce (women and men).

However, and as the 2019 EIGE’s Gender Equality Index recalls, the pace in improving gender equality has slowed, with the score for the EU increasing by less than one point in the last two years. One of the primary reasons of gender inequality in the EU economy and the gender employment gap is the gender care gap: the unequal share of care responsibilities in the family, which decreases (full) women’s economic potential. In 2016, almost 9 out of 10 mothers in the EU provided daily care for their children, compared to some 6 out of 10 fathers. In number of hours, the care gap is even more evident: fathers spend an average of some 20 hours per week for the care of their children, while the mothers dedicate almost twice as much (Eurofound, 2018).

Closing the gender care gap goes through the development and consolidation of strong work-life reconciliation measures (access to resources, services, time arrangements) for both women and men. Allowing working mothers, fathers, carers to reconcile work and family life increases female employment, increases health and well-being of women, men and children, and reduces family and child poverty. Moreover, reconciliation-friendly economies and working cultures also benefit business by boosting productivity, reducing sick leaves and absenteeism, improving workforce recruitment and retainment, and providing a competitive advantage meeting the expectations of younger generations of workers.

We call on the EPSCO Council, as well as the new European Commission and European Parliament, to ensure that policies and legislation are designed to reflect the needs of society, offering flexible and secure solutions to families, workers, and employers.

The EU Work-Life Balance Directive, the Council Recommendation on access to social protection for self-employed, and the recently adopted Finnish Presidency Council conclusions of the Economy of Wellbeing are all important stepping stones towards the achievement of an reconciliation economy that works for the people, and as such, they must now be transposed into national legislations, implemented and monitored closely.

COFACE Families Europe calls on the EPSCO Council to:

  • Ensure adequate payment of family leaves: COFACE Families Europe has pushed for work-life balance for all, based on measures that tackle the stereotypical vision of “traditional” and old-fashioned distributions of roles, where women are caregivers and men are the breadwinners. In order to close the gender care gap, COFACE Families Europe supports measures that encourage men’s involvement in family and care responsibilities. Adequate payment of family leaves paternity, parental, and carers), is a key element to rebalance the gender uptake of the leaves and care responsibilities, to ensure non-discrimination of citizens based on the socio-economic situation of families, and to address and prevent poverty of families. There are clear references in the Directive about the need to provide adequate income replacement for family leaves, and this should guide governments in their definition of an “adequate” income replacement.
  • Recognise the multi-dimensionality of the reconciliation economy: To be effective, and in order to create a reconciliation friendly environment, all stakeholders (workers, employers, families public and private authorities) must be involved in shaping legislative and practical initiatives. Effective change will only happen if a multi-dimensional approach is used.
  • Recognise the diversity of families and their needs to ensure equal treatment: The Work-Life Balance Directive acknowledges family diversity and introduces the notion of “equivalent second parent”. We strongly encourage national legislators to insert this diversity into national legislation via the transposition of the Directive. Providing a mix of universal and targeted support to different families in vulnerable or specific situations, many of whom are mentioned in the Directive: single parents, parents with a disability or parents of children with a disability, a mental health problem or long-term illness, adoptive parents, multiple births and premature births, persons in need of care and assistance who do not have any family member left. Family diversity also means recognising the different relatives who are family carers: not only children, parents, or spouse/partner or persons living in the same household (as indicated in the Directive) but also additional relatives, such as siblings and grandparents.
  • Monitor and report through an EU Work-Life Balance Index: There are commitments in both the EPSCO conclusions on Gender-equal economies and the Work-Life Balance Directive to close monitoring by the European Commission to collect data on different topics and therefore strengthening the role of EU agencies such as EIGE and Eurofound. The inclusion of Work-Life Balance indicators in the EIGE Gender Equality index is an important stepping stone towards the creation of a European Work-Life Balance index to be integrated in the European social scoreboard and incorporated in the European Semester process as a powerful tool to improve the monitoring of Member States’ performance over time.

For more information, contact Pascual Martinez COFACE policy and advocacy officer:


  1. COFACE Families Europe is a network of civil society associations representing the interests of all families without discrimination. COFACE Families Europe’s areas of work include social/family policy, education, disability, gender equality, migration, consumer issues, and also protection of children online, privacy, data protection and reflections on technological developments and how they may impact families. More:
  2. Work Life-Balance Directive (12 July 2019)
  3. Council Recommendation on access to social protection for self-employed (8 November 2019)
  4. Finnish Presidency Conclusions on Economy of Wellbeing (22 November 2019)
  5. EIGE Gender Equality Index (launched on 15 October 2019)
  6. Eurofound: Progress in paternity and parental leave for fathers – Are baby steps enough? (Blog, October 2018)
  7. COFACE Families Europe: European Reconciliation Package (March 2015)
  8. COFACE Families Europe: Families on the Edge (March 2017)
  9. COFACE Families Europe: New Deal for Families of Today (September 2019)
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