MEPs can improve the lives of working parents, carers and all families in Europe // Towards a new Family policies Intergroup

Last year, 388 MEPs expressed their support to put the issue of reconciling work and family life higher on the European Agenda (by signing the Written Declaration 32/2012). This new legislative period of the European Parliament is a key opportunity to do so.

Earlier this year we launched the publication #FamiliesVOTE2014 in which we asked to several European political groups whether they are in favor of the creation of a new Family policies Intergroup.

Today we are asking MEPs to join the Family policies Intergroup and to contribute to improve policies that will have an effect on the lives of millions of working parents, carers and all the different forms of families in the EU. If you wish to read more about the proposed work-programme of the Intergroup, please go here to read the Manifesto of the Family Policies Intergroup – Reinforcing Family as a Basic Component of Society and Reconciling Work and Family.

This Intergroup proposal has been put forward by: Ildikó GÁLL-PELCZ (EPP, HU) Vice President of the European Parliament; Jutta STEINRUCK (S&D, DE); Arne GERICKE (ECR, DE); Marian HARKIN (ALDE, IE) and Klaus BUCHNER (Greens, DE).

COFACE, the Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union, highly welcomes and supports this initiative on behalf of the 100 million citizens in our EU-wide membership.

We will keep you informed. Watch this space!

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Every employer can do something to positively impact on the wellbeing of their employee carers and parents | #EEFWLB

Employers’ Forum for Work Life Balance Final Report, 8-9 September, Helsinki.

Positive impact Report #EEFWLB HelsinkiWorking conditions and working time arrangements are a primary preoccupation for the majority of families, as well as the place of work and commuting have a great impact on family life. The central point for departure of our conference was that employers have a great responsibility in this matter, and even if not everybody can do everything, every employer can do something to positively impact on the wellbeing of their employee carers and parents.
There are a number of factors that define the work-life balance landscape in every country, and many of the topics that emerged as important are cross-cutting. The conference and the speakers tried to address a great number of these, among which:

In the moment of transition to parenthood LEAVES play a crucial role, and often this is the time when things go wrong in terms of the relationship with work, and the way organisations/employers handle leaves has a huge impact on the continuity of the career and working life. The issue of fathers’ leave is of course a very interesting Europe-wide issue, in the particularly gendered situation of parenting and childcare. One of the many myths is that economic factors determine fathers’ taking or losing out on their right to leave, yet research shows, that it is rather gender equality within the family. Unfortunately workplaces that have solid leave policies for mothers and fathers are still few and far between. It is mainly in the industries which require highly skilled and specialised employees that have made the link between good leave policies and talent retention.

The issue of WORKING TIME was addressed by most of the speakers, as we are generally still stuck in a post-industrialist work arrangement, in which employees and workers need to be seen and supervised during specific hours as a proof of doing the job they are supposed to. There are great variations across Europe around the prevalence of part-time work as in some countries it is very rare and in some other countries almost the norm. Non-standard working hours can also offer opportunities for reconciling work and family life, but mostly for the higher socio-economic classes of society, and those with the highest skills.

The issue of GENDER EQUALITY cannot be uncoupled from the discussion on work-life balance. As women are a majority in the workforce, they are changing the rules of the previously male dominated labour market. Yet, as with any social and culture change, policies carry a stigma if they seem to be only addressed to a certain part of the population, and this way flexible or reduced working hours are not seen as also being for men.

Even though the conference focused specifically on what employers can do to make reconciliation easier, the discussion around the accessibility of CHILDCARE and other services came up regularly. Childcare provision seems to be seen as a measure of supporting working mothers, yet the lack of such services can also seriously compromise the career and work-trajectories of older women, who are grandparents and need to reduce working time or leave the labour market to help out with grandchildren. The two systems of leaves and childcare are interconnected, and have a profound effect on women’s working lives, especially those with unpredictable and irregular working hours, and especially single mums and those far away from other family support.

The LEADERSHIP of the organisation has a lot of responsibility in shaping a certain organisational culture, and it is often this culture that imposes norms and behaviour on its managers and workers. Unfortunately there are still many workplaces that penalise people who prioritise their family, or as a matter of fact other outside interests. The culture of the organisation is as difficult to change as the policy and legislative framework, and is especially at risk of not being sustainable due to change of leadership.

An overall message emerging from the conference was about the need to extend work-life balance policies beyond the reach of only the most highly educated, or those with top managerial jobs, supported with a lot of IT, that enables remote working. Combining or integrating work and family life is an absolute necessity if we want to affront the current demographic challenges. Unless we tackle the issue of working time, childcare and other care services and leaves systems, the existing inequalities will only grow.

Read the Full Report of the Employers’ Forum for Work Life Balance

More about this event

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Time to register! A sustainable care system for Europe

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With the current demographic trends that see the European population getting older, families have more and more care responsibilities towards their ageing or dependent family members. 80% of care hours for ageing or disabled persons is provided by family or informal carers, free of charge.

Care providers within families are often women and because of the difficulties they face in reconciling their paid employment with the care responsibilities and also because of insufficiency or lack of quality, accessible and affordable services, they often end up dropping out of the labour market. This has a serious impact on their possibility to re-integrate paid employment, and directly effects their pension contributions and their social inclusion, exposing them to a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion.

On the other hand, a growing trend for families in Europe is to hire an external carer, often from a migrant background, that provides 24h care, living with the person in need of care. However, this model has some social consequences, on care workers and the person cared for, and it is urgent to reflect whether, in its current application, this is a socially sustainable care model for Europe.

In this conference, COFACE and its member Anziani e Non Solo aim to discuss and present, under the auspices of the Italian Presidency of the EU, policies and practices developed at local and national level that can support families in reconciling their work and care responsibilities and reflect on the sustainability of the current growing trends of care.

Draft Programme
Hashtag: #sustainablecarewlb

Register to this conference

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Watch the #EEFWLB again

#EEFWLB

Employers have a crucial role in making work-life balance a reality. But there is not a one-solution-fits-all measure!

COFACE, in collaboration with its Finnish member Väestöliitto, The Family Federation of Finland organised the Employers’ Forum for Work Life Balance on September 8-9 in Helsinki.

The #EEFWLB was a great opportunity to foster exchange between employers from the private, public and third sectors, experts and representatives of social partners, scientists and researchers to discuss family friendly workplace measures.

Among the many issues discussed it clearly emerged that flexible working arrangements are proven to be beneficial for the employee and for the company as it increases commitment and reduce turn-over. It should not serve only working parents or workers with care responsibilities but should be designed and made available to all workers, regardless of their gender or family status.

All the VIDEOS from the pre-conference on “New Dimensions of Family-Life and Work for Women, Men and Children” can be watched here: http://videonet.fi/vaestoliitto/preconference

All the VIDEOS from the European Employers’ Forum for Work-Life Balance can be watched here: http://videonet.fi/vaestoliitto/conference

The #EEFWLB was the second highlight event of COFACE’s Year of Reconciling Work and Family Life in Europe over the course of 2014. We had a wonderful time and have greatly enjoyed the quality and variety of the presentations, questions and comments.

More: #EEFWLB on Social Media   #EEFWLB pictures   #EEFWLB conference website

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European Employers’ Forum: 5 days to go!

We are getting closer to the European Employers’ Forum for Work Life Balance!

For those who cannot be in Helsinki with us, don’t forget that you can follow the conference on LIVE STREAMING:

On Monday 8 September (13:00 to 18:00 EET)
Pre Conference

On Tuesday 9 September (9:00-17:30 EET)
European Employers’ Forum for Work-Life Balance

Link: http://wm.videonet.fi/netvideo/intermission.wmv
But also here and here

The #EEFWLB is a highly interactive event. We will discuss #familyfriendly workplace measures both days. We invite you to get involved, ask questions, react and join the conversation by using the hashtag #EEFWLB and #employersforum #worklifebalance.

Follow the conference on Storify

All about the conference

More information on our website

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Identity and work-life balance: it’s all in the sandwich

In a previous job I was involved a bit with the preoccupation around identity, especially in an international context: how is our identity shaped or affected when we travel or live abroad. It was during that time, in order to understand the complex issue of identity, someone told me about our own, unique identity sandwich, as we are not one block that defines us, but many different layers that make up our unique identity-DNA if you wish. These layers can shift and move, and our identity make-up may change during our lifetime, especially, if we are exposed to intense experiences.

We are all individual. With our own specific history, up-bringing, culture, dreams and aspirations. Yet we are also part of a group, our family, group of friends, educators, church, and sports-club. During our lives these powerful connections we make shape who we are, our identity and our sense of belonging. So my identity sandwich for example is made up of the layers of being a woman, Hungarian, living in Belgium, being a parent, and not necessarily in that order. The thickness and importance of these identity layers will greatly influence my choices and priorities in life. Football fans across the globe I imagine prioritised watching the matches of the World cup over choosing other activities or even sleep in the past few weeks. Parents with a sick child will prioritise being there over going to the cinema. Avid walkers will prioritise a weekend in the woods over staying indoors and watching TV.

As most of us have to, and a large majority of us wants to work, we spend a huge proportion of our lives working. The paradox of work is, that while many of us end up hating it, we all initially actively seek it out. What is quite often forgotten, is that the business of work is not only to produce goods or services, but in fact work makes people. We become what we do. Our work makes up a very important layer in our identity sandwich.

In our societies work is central to our culture. If someone asks you “What do you do?” they really mean “What work do you do?” When a woman is asked “Do you work?”, what is meant is “Are you doing a paid job?”

As we are preparing for our up-coming conference in Helsinki, Finland on the 9th September, the European Employers’ Forum, the issue of work-life balance, or that of reconciling work and family life is again central to our thinking. We are finalising the programme, and there will be many very interesting presentations about the point of view of employers on this issue.

Reading about the subject, we can safely say that the trend is moving towards more democratic workplaces, away from the industrial age model. More autonomy and personalised human resource management seems also on the rise, at least in those workplaces that have woken up to this new workplace revolution.

Today I put two and two together, and started looking at these “new work” or “future work” trends through the identity lens.  As we seek out certain professions, we gravitate towards them because we are looking for a connection between ourselves and the identities we build through the work.

In relation to employers, they manage a number of individuals, who even with similar backgrounds have different identity profiles and thus value and prioritise different things in life. Some will outright prioritise work – if it figures very prominently in their identity getup. Others will always prioritise their family, no matter how committed they may be at work. And it is OK, as long as co-workers and line-managers understand, how important it is for everyone to be true to themselves and nurture their identities. Pretending to be a workaholic to please one’s boss will never work, at least not in the long run.

So where am I getting with all this? To put it simply, work forms us, gives us focus, a vehicle for personal expression and offers us a means for personal definition. And it will be those workplaces that will systematically outperform others, where employees and workers can stay individuals, even during working hours. Where they are recognised for their multiple identities and roles in society, in their family sphere, their civic sphere, and given the flexibility and freedom to be all these things. The rewards for such a workplace will be greater loyalty and enhanced productivity. Always.

Agnes Uhereczky

Posted in A Word from the Director, Companies, Employers, European Year 2014, Events, Life, Work/Life Balance | 2 Comments

Cracking the Myths of Work Life Balance on 8-9 September, Helsinki. Register now to secure your place!

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The myth that work-life balance policies and practices are a luxury does not contribute to the company core business is still widespread! This is why we are organizing the Employers’ Forum for Work Life Balance in Helsinki, Finland on 8-9 September, as an opportunity to provide information and change attitudes, as a myth buster.

The Forum will specifically feature work-life balance measures, and existing examples that have already demonstrated concrete outcomes in increasing company productivity, employee satisfaction, responsibility and ownership, gender equality.

Register now to secure your place! euemployersforum.eventbrite.com

This event is jointly organised by COFACE and its Finnish member organisation, the Family Federation of Finland (Väestöliitto) in cooperation with the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The conference will take place at The House of the Estates.

Join our LinkedIn Group
Check our Scoop.it channel on Work-Life Balance!
Programme and further information on our website

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