Reconciliation of work and family life policies tend to be seen as specific measures for women, or even more narrowly for young working mothers. This is, however, a discriminatory interpretation of workers’ needs and gives way to ineffective implementation of measures that are needed by all workers, regardless of their gender or family status. It is important that reconciliation policies, may it be flexible working arrangements or tailored service provision, are available to all workers, regardless of their parental status or the age of children since families’ needs for flexibility do not end with the enrolment of children in preschool. Parents of older children and teenagers have to respond to a different but equally important demand for parental presence that requires a certain flexibility.
Reconciliation must not be seen as a parents-only policy: those who care for an older or disabled relative also have specific situations that are legitimate responsibilities outside of paid work and need to be taken into consideration. These needs may be temporary and last for short or longer periods, may incur abruptly or may be linked with the worker’s well-being. Therefore, linking them to a specific family situation(e.g. being parent, carer…) can be limiting and create disparities among employees, that can have negative impact on the working environment. Designing and implementing reconciliation measures is not, and must not be considered as a gesture for women or employees with family responsibilities only, but a profound change in the way of organizing work and society.
COFACE believes that a more family friendly workplace, in which the wellbeing and individual needs of workers are respected and taken into account, and in which leaves are not grounds for discrimination but rather a corner stone for a more inclusive and equallabour market, will contribute to higher employment rates for women, improved economic performance, reduced absenteeism, and ultimately contribute to economic growth.
For leave schemes relating to children (e.g. maternity, paternity and parental leaves..) the best interest of the child must be the guiding principle of policy making. Investing, protecting and promoting the well-being of children, including through appropriate leave provisions granted to parents, guardians or other relatives, is of ultimate importance.
Currently, only two types of leaves are regulated at European level: maternity leave and parental leave. COFACE is trying to get existing leave provisions improved, but is also lobbying for European legislation on paternity leave and carer’s leave.