Work-life balance: Time for action!

While a public consultation is still running, the European Commission's first phase social partner consultation on its initiative on work-life balance came to a close yesterday. It its contribution, CESI reiterates the need for concrete proposals with teeth for a better reconciliation of work and family life.

Work-life balance: Time for action!

The initiative on work-life balance by the Commission follows its recent withdrawal of the 2008 proposal to revise the Maternity Leave Directive. According to the Commission, the objective of the initiative is “to address the low participation of women in the labour market by modernising and adapting the current EU legal and policy framework to today’s labour market to allow for parents with children or those with dependent relatives to better balance caring and professional responsibilities.”

It its statement, CESI highlightes the challenges on the way to better work-life balance solutions for workers and illustrates possible ways out.

Regulating the flexibilisation of working time and the location of work

Increasing work flexibilisation as a tool for better work-life balance in exchange of a mere increase in work intensification or the shifting of work to other employees is not a solution that can allow adequate occupational health and safety of workers in the long run.
Accordingly, CESI favours preventive safeguards like the recruitment of additional staff to avoid such harmful developments whenever new schemes for a better work-life balance are being created. CESI believes that increased work flexibilisation for better work-life balance can be particularly well achieved by means of life work time accounts and tightly regulated alternating telework.

Putting in place more effective part time work schemes

In many Member States, effective schemes to help bring employees working part time back to full-time work are missing or deficient. This means that voluntary part time work, started for instance due to family-related reasons, often ends up being forced part time work in the long run. This can lead to in-work poverty in the present and old age poverty in the future (since part time workers do not collect as many pension entitlements as full-time workers). Experience has shown that women are disproportionally affected.
In this context, CESI supports concepts for an easier switch between part time work and full-time work. More instruments for vocational education and training in part time should also be envisaged and working parents and carers in leadership and management positions should be given more possibilities to work part time too – naturally without part time work having negative implications on professional development opportunities.

Achieving more and better childcare options

A suitable work-life balance for parents is only possible if childcare is available. Therefore, CESI favours an EU-wide legal right to childcare.
To make this right work in practice, investments in the quantity of childcare workers, services and facilities need to be stimulated to the extent that childcare becomes effectively available on a continuous basis and affordable for all families and single parents – including the less well-off. CESI underscores the importance of social investments in childcare, which will yield substantial positive returns especially in the long-run.

Realising more affordable options for care

While the need to provide professional and stationary care for family members is often key for workers to combine job requirements with care responsibilities, only few can currently afford it. Therefore, CESI believes that stationary and professional care services must be made more affordable and that investments must be made to further raise the quality and quantity of available care services.

Furthermore, CESI notes that where personal home based care is necessary, part time work as a result of family-related care responsibilities must be subsidised by the state so that caring workers continue to receive full salaries and will not lose out on pension and social security entitlements.

CESI’s full consultation statement can be accessed here. More information about the Commission’s initiative on work-life balance is available here

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