European Parliament: Action to improve Work-life balance needed at EU and national levels

Members of the European Parliament adopted in plenary a resolution that calls for a modernization of work-life balance legislation including maternity and parental leave as well as paternity and carers’ leave.

A remarkable initiative has been taken by the European Parliament which has adopted a resolution that looks at work/life balance issues in a holistic way. Unusual aspects include the comprehensive way in which individual topics are combined as well as the rigorous diversity perspective that is included. The MEPs are quite specific in some of the details they request regarding maternity and parental leave as well as paternity and carers’ leave. “We need all these new developments in order to increase participation of women in the labour market and improve work-life balance. Fathers should be more involved in sharing family responsibilities in order to improve gender equality“, said co-rapporteur Vilija Blinkeviciute. The resolution covers the following areas:

Revision of Maternity leave directive

MEPs call on the Commission to bring new ambitious proposals to the Maternity Leave Directive ensuring that women are paid and covered by social protection for the duration of maternity leave and are not being financially penalised for having children. A British study by the CIPD had just found that working mothers in low-skilled jobs are being forced to either considerably reduce their hours or give up work altogether after having a second child.

Improving parental leave

The EP resolution also requests that the minimum duration of parental leave with adequate income replacement and social protection should be increased from four to at least six months. Parents should be given flexibility to use the leave in fractions or altogether and the age of the child for which parental leave can be taken, need to be increased. MEPs reiterate that parental leave should be equally shared between parents and that both parents have to be treated in the same way in terms of rights to income and the duration of leave.

New paternity and carers’ leave directive

MEPs urge the Commission, in order to allow parents with children or people with dependants to achieve a better work-life balance, to come up with the new directive on paternity leave with a minimum of a compulsory two-week fully paid leave and with the carers’ leave directive which enables workers to care for dependants and offers the carer adequate remuneration and social protection. MEPs also call on Member States to introduce ‘care credits’ through labour and social security legislation as equivalent periods for building up pension rights in order to protect those taking a break from employment to provide informal, unpaid care to a dependant or a family member and recognise the value of the work of these carers for the whole society.

Care for children and smart working

Quality child care services should be available, affordable and accessible, says the text. MEPs also stressed the importance of flexible forms of work (flexible working hours) in allowing women and men to reconcile work and family life, provided that the worker is free to make the choice.

The resolution was adopted by 443 votes in favour, 123 against and 100 abstentions. It is neither binding for the European Commission nor for the Member States.