Work-Life balance for working parents and carers

Date: 2nd May 2017
Category: Parental responsibilities

The European Commission has put forward a comprehensive proposal on 'Work-Life balance for working parents and carers'. This package proposes leave schemes as well as provisions of quality, affordable and accessible care services and flexible working arrangements.

This initiative has the potential to bring real change in the lives of many Europeans.

First, there is a mix of legislative and non-legislative initiatives covering leave schemes as well as provisions of quality, affordable and accessible care services and flexible working arrangements. The Package must be followed up with serious enforcement and real monitoring across the EU.

Some of the measures included are particularly helpful, notably the introduction of a paid paternity leave of ten days and a minimum payment at sick leave level of a non-transferable parental leave. Payment, increased flexibility and non-transferability have been proven crucial to increase take- up among fathers. The Directive also introduces a new carers' leave of 5 days per year paid also at sick pay level. This is a welcome step. However, it is regrettable that no legislative measures have been taken to extend protection against dismissal of women returning to work from a period of leave, beyond a better enforcement of existing legislation.

Backing from Member States and monitoring progress will be fundamental. The use of EU funds as well as the EU Semester process is linked to realising the work-life balance policies. On childcare, there has been an unexpected revision of the Education and Training 2020 targets instead of the more known Barcelona objectives, however, any revision is welcomed that that would align the Education and Training targets to the Barcelona objectives and to the European Quality Framework on ECEC.

This revision should include the recognition that investing in quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services will have a positive impact on women's labour market participation as much as on children's development. Included in the Directive is also home care services; in its implementation there must be a stronger focus on individualised support services which will improve the quality of life and access to the labour market of all European citizens and families irrespective their age, background or assistance needs.

Eurochild -- a Coalition of European networks of NGOs working since 2012 in order to put work-life balance high on the EU agenda - have felt strongly that this was the last chance for Europe. They therefore endorse and welcome this initiative as a real step forward. They now urge the two co-legislators, the European Parliament and Council of the EU, to seize this opportunity and prove to women, men, children and families that the EU works with and for them, by adopting this Work-Life Balance Package without watering it down.