Work-life balance: a shared responsibility conference

Fairer and more flexible work contracts, easier access to career breaks and a holistic approach are the main recommendations made by Europe’s local and regional authorities.

The conference ‘Work-life balance: a shared responsibility’ organised by The Committee of the Regions in Logroño (Spain) looked at how Europe’s regions can contribute to balancing work and family life through the framing and the implementation of policy measures that support the participation of women in the labour force and more flexible forms of working time arrangements. Teresa Blat, the President of Spanish COFACE’s member organisation UNAF presented our campaign “2014 Year of Reconciling Work and Family Life in Europe”.

2014 conciliacion
One of the conclusions of the day was that responsibility for a suitable work-life balance is to be shared between workers, families, social partners, local and regional authorities and all public and private services. Only by ensuring a holistic approach it will be possible to pursue a social and economic sustainable environment that puts individuals and their families at the heart of policymaking.

The conclusions of the conference are available here

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Message from COFACE and COFACE-Disability on the occasion of International Women’s Day

banner coface & coface-disability
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to take stock of the progress achieved, call for changes and celebrate the acts of courage and determination of ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their country and their community.

Being a woman generally means having the possibility to bear children, being able to express the wish and choice to have a child with the hope of being able to bring the child up in good conditions which make it possible to provide it with a future and the necessary autonomy within an inclusive, solidarity-based society.

However, becoming a mother can sometimes result in the woman losing her rights and freedom of choice when mentalities and/or living conditions are poor or deteriorate. She may have to give up work or on the other hand she may not be able to arrange and organise her working time. She is still too often perceived as having primary parenting responsibility and many are mothers in single-parent families. When disability affects a close family member, young or old, she is forced most of the time to care for that person on a day-to-day basis. To the detriment of her private, family and professional life, she becomes impoverished and is gradually excluded from world affairs if a family and social policy fails to fulfil its duty of solidarity.

International Women’s Day is also a renewed opportunity to express our outrage at the situation of women, whether or not they are mothers, who are forced into marriage, abused, mutilated, raped, beaten, slaughtered in a kind of uninterrupted massacre[1] throughout the world. This day is also an opportunity to reiterate our admiration for women whose voice carries loud and clear messages of freedom, who defend the rights of other women, are sometimes made scapegoats and risk their life, and for those ever vigilant women who are called upon, time and time again, to defend hard-won freedoms such as access to education, contraception, abortion, integrity, etc.

For COFACE and COFACE-Disability, it seems absolutely crucial to consider, always and everywhere, women as holders of rights (and duties), whether or not they choose to be a mother. In our opinion, it is equally important to ensure that acquired rights are only re-discussed with a view to improving them and in all cases with women themselves. In our view there is an urgent need to change the perceptions and attitudes of society with regard to the education, rights and status of women.

Chantal Bruno
President COFACE-Disability

[1] According to World Bank figures, rape and domestic violence represent a greater risk for women aged between 15 and 44, than cancer, road accidents, war and malaria combined.

8 March is International Women’s Day. Follow the Hashtag #IWD2014 and get stories, updates & photos: http://owl.li/uhD4Q
www.internationalwomensday.com

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The Work and Family Show

04Born out of the demand from families looking for practical and personal solutions for returning to work or starting up their own business after having a family, the Work and Family Show held on 21-22 February in London gathered a collection of business leaders, employment experts, NGOs and entrepreneurs all sharing their advice in interactive and lively debates.

A COFACE delegation was there both days. The show was a great opportunity to follow a number of animated debates over topics including gender stereotypes in the workplace, roles and responsibilities in the 21st century, and family life going digital (photos).

The organisers recently commissioned some research into the state-of-mind of working parents which revealed that many families struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance, feeling misunderstood by their employers and guilty about leaving their children in childcare. They found that a whole fifth of dads (20%) say they wished they hadn’t gone back to work after having a family, saying they wished they could have looked after their child while over a third (37%) of men say they work full time with no flexibility from their employer whatsoever. 35% of women, meanwhile, said they felt they didn’t have any help or understanding from their employer when dealing with the difficult transition from working woman to working mum, fearing that they were given less responsibility and fewer big projects.

Ben Black, Director of My Family Care, who have designed the content for the Show said: “Due to the lack of support from employers on returning to work, women often feel forced to give up the careers they have trained so hard for in order to fit into their new role of motherhood. However, it shouldn’t be like this. Businesses are missing a trick by failing to support their caring workforce – by offering flexible working and a more understanding ethos through the company, businesses can create a happier and more engaged workforce that will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the business in the long run.”

More on this event: www.theworkandfamilyshow.co.uk

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First Expert seminar 2014 Alliance meeting

24The 2014 Alliance has begun its work for the Year of Reconciling Work and Family Life in Europe. On 18 February the Alliance Members gathered in Brussels (photos) for a first Working Meeting to share practices and get organised for the development of the European Reconciliation Package, one of the main outcomes of the Year.

During the meeting, the Alliance Members presented their work in the field of reconciling work and family life and provided the other members with information and practices from their work and specific field of expertise. We discussed about women’s employment, policies to support carers in reconciling their care and work responsibilities, the role of companies and how much education, training and information sharing could bring to employers and employees. Once again we could understand how this issue is a top priority for families and citizens in Europe and that only with coordinated and multi-level responses it would be possible to make the change happen in families’ lives.

For this reason, during this one-day-meeting, the Alliance members defined the starting points for the future work to be developed during the year and identified some of the key areas around which the European Reconciliation Package (ERP) will be built.

The ERP will contain the main policy recommendations we believe would help improve work-life balance and the quality of life of families in Europe. For more information or for contributing to the ERP, get in touch with us!

Presentation Variazioni
Presentatuion European Women’s Lobby
Presentation European Parent’s Association
Presentation AGE
Presentation Eurochild
Presentation MMM

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Obama calls gender pay gap an ‘embarrassment’

In his State of the Union speech last Tuesday, President Obama urged the country to come together for gender equality in the workplace. He stressed that women still make 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes.

He made a reference to the idea that today’s employment policies have not caught up with modern ideas about gender equality.

Barack-Obama« Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.
A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.
A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too.
It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.
This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds. »

President Obama put strengthening women front and center as a solution to strengthening our nation’s economy and we applaud him for that. Could this happen in your country?

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Now would you believe it…

that the European Parliament Communications team highlights work-life balance as one of the great benefits of living in Europe – and indirectly of the work of the European Parliament. As the European Elections are coming closer (25th May), the European Parliament as an institution is also campaigning independently of the political groups about its own relevance and why European Citizens need to go to the urns at the end of May.

In their latest animation “Quality of Life. Let’s aim high.” in their Act.React.Impact. campaign they state: “We believe that family, work and leisure should be balanced in our daily lives.”, and we couldn’t agree more. However, there is definitely room for improvement, and this is what our campaign is all about, to move from a firm belief, that a good work-life balance improves the quality of life of Europe’s citizens, to implementing real policies and actions in actually making it happen.

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The Year is officially launched!

007COFACE officially launched the 2014 Year of Reconciling Work and Family Life in Europe, on the 23rd January in the European Parliament. MEP Marian Harkin hosted the event, and she also gave a very inspirational speech for those who came to celebrate the start of this busy year with us (pictures of the event available here).

We took this opportunity to present our planned activities for 2014. Throughout the year we will be working together with the 2014 Alliance on the different sections of the European Reconciliation Package – which will contain the main policy recommendations we believe would help improve work-life balance and the quality of life of families in Europe. In addition, we are organizing three High Level events this year:

► 29 April: Conference “Families in the crisis”. Under the auspices of the Greek Presidency in Athens.
► 8-9 September: European Employers’ Reconciliation Forum. Endorsed by the Finnish Ministry of Social Welfare in Helsinki.
► October/November: Conference on Social innovation. Under the auspices of the Italian Presidency in Italy.

From the overwhelming positive feedback we received in the past week and from what our members and other stakeholders are telling us, it is obvious, that reconciliation and work-life balance are important preoccupations for many, both on an individual and on an institutional level. Therefore it comes as no surprise, that many others are also organising events and conferences around Europe on the issue. These you can see from the Events section. We ourselves have been invited to a great number of them, and we are taking all of these opportunities to collect more knowledge, more practices, more research studies and everything that will enrich our Package towards the end of the year.

We highly encourage everyone, not only to get involved in what we are able to offer, but also to organise events, debates, carry out surveys or whatever comes to mind to help us spread the importance of the issue and create a kind of ripple effect, that we are really hoping for. Everybody can get involved throughout the year. If you have any ideas or suggestion on how you may get involved, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time.

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