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20 April 2018

Trade unions reiterate their support for the directive on work-life balance

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) reiterated its support for the proposal for a European directive on work-life balance for parents and carers at an ETUI Monthly Forum on 17 April. The main results of a comparative study of the systems already in place in the Member States, which the ETUI had requested from the European Social Observatory, were presented at the Forum.

‘This directive is the main concrete initiative generated by the European Pillar of Social Rights’, stressed Montserrat Mir, a Confederal Secretary in the ETUC, at the outset. In her view, this legislation would benefit society, both socially and economically, as it would encourage women to participate in the labour market. Indeed, the European economy, now getting back on its feet, needs measures to stimulate the inclusion of women in economic life and reduce the obstacles to their professional development.

The representative of the European trade unions also felt that the directive, currently being examined in the Council of the European Union, offered an opportunity to bring EU citizens closer to the European project because it would bring about positive changes in their daily lives.

Mrs Mir took advantage of the visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, scheduled on the same day, to appeal to France: ‘France must show that it is prepared to support this directive’, she said. Support for the directive from the large Member States is essential because it has to be adopted by qualified majority, i.e. 55 % of the Member States representing 65 % of the EU population.

The Bulgarian Presidency of the EU is currently seeking a compromise as there are significant disparities among states in relation to certain provisions of the text.

Compared to the old Directive on parental leave (2010/18/EU), the new text introduces minimum payment for parental leave, at the level of sick pay, and no longer allows the right to parental leave to be transferred between parents. These measures aim to encourage fathers to exercise their right to parental leave, which is still largely the preserve of mothers.

Irma Krysiak, a representative of the European Commission’s DG Employment and Social Affairs, confirmed that these two points were the main stumbling blocks. Mrs Krysiak referred to ‘cultural aspects’ when explaining the strong opposition from certain countries to the measure aimed at extending from one to four months the period during which the right to parental leave could not be transferred between fathers and mothers.

Dalila Ghailani, a researcher in the European Social Observatory, presented the results of a comparative study of the national laws on work-life balance for parents. She compared the national situations to the new provisions in the proposal for a directive. ‘Paternity leave poses the fewest problems as 14 countries comply with the directive in full, with another seven countries complying partially’, she observed. The directive provides for a minimum of 10 days’ leave for fathers, with payment at the level of sick pay at the very least.

Mrs Ghailani presented a table highlighting the disparities within the EU itself. She listed 11 measures contained in the directive and looked at the provisions of the laws of the 28 Member States. A group of nine countries (Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia) were ‘lacking’ in at least five areas.

At the end of the discussion with the participants, led by Pierre Baussand (Eurofound), Mrs Mir concluded by declaring that ‘this directive should be seen as an investment for society as a whole, not a cost’.

More information:

Presentation by D. Ghailani 

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