EP calls for common parental leave rules to be enforced

Everyone, without regard to gender, should be guaranteed the right to parental leave without discrimination, regardless of the employment sector or the type of contract under which working fathers and mothers are employed.

There are big differences in parental leave rules around the EU, and especially on who is entitled to take it. Public sector employees often have more protection than those in private businesses, and in some member states workers on fixed-term or zero-hour contracts are not always included.

The EU’s common rules on minimum parental leave should be better enforced EU-wide, says the European Parliament in a resolution voted on May 12th. The resolution, drafted by Maria Arena (S&D, BE) was passed by 491 votes to 101, with 38 abstentions.

MEPs call on the Commission and the social partners to extend the minimum duration of unpaid parental leave from 4 to at least 6 months and advocate introducing EU rules on a minimum 2-week paternity leave. The EP looks also forward to detailed rules for granting parental leave to parents of children with a disability or serious or long-term incapacitating illness… Read more

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COFACE welcomes a report on work-life balance and invites MEPs to support it

While waiting for the European Commission to analyse the responses to the public consultation and preparing a proposal for a European Reconciliation Package, the European Parliament has taken a pro-active attitude and initiated a report on “Creating labour market conditions favourable to work-life balance” (see previous post). The report will be voted during the summer, and then, presented and voted in Strasbourg. COFACE welcomes this report and invites MEPs to support this initiative with a positive vote. COFACE welcomes in particular:

Life-cycle approach: reconciliation should not be seen and promoted as a benefit for young parents only, but as a system and a safety net for all family members throughout their lives. Family needs evolve with times and difficult situations may arise from an accident, an illness, an ageing parent needing more support or simply because part of the family is moving in another city or country. Countless are the situations where families need the possibility of arranging their work and care responsibilities or rely on the presence of care services to be able to cope.

Recognizing the role of technology at the workplace but being aware of the risk of a shift from a “culture of presence” to a “culture of availability”: smartphones, laptops and being able to be connected to the internet almost everywhere have increase exponentially the possibilities for telework, flexibility and being able to arrange working commitments around family and care responsibilities. However, the risk of falling into a “culture of availability 24/7” because of this access to technology is very high and we should be very careful in respecting workers’ rights and well-being.

Establishment of targets that would go beyond childcare: while the achievement of the Barcelona targets remains a fundamental objective, in an ageing society we cannot refuse to see the high number of workers (mainly women), aged 45+, that reduce their working hours or drop out completely of the labour market to care for an ageing or dependent family member. This has an impact on their income but even more dramatically on their future pension. Therefore, it is fundamental to introduce targets on care for elderly and other dependents, with monitoring tools within the European Semester.

Legislative proposals for the introduction of a EU paternity leave directive and a EU carers’ leave directive. Legislation in the EU Member States are very different in these two areas but the need for specific tools to ensure families with the possibility of taking care of their newborn and family members with care needs are equal across the EU. COFACE believes that the best way to ensure rights to all families in Europe in this area is by introducing specific legislation with European standards.

Monitoring and enforcement of current legislation as the Parental Leave Directive to ensure transposition and identify areas that could be improved.

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Creating Labour Market Conditions Favourable for Work-Life Balance

News-03-2016-WLB EPFollowing the announcement by the European Commission of a new initiative called “New start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families”, the European Parliament Committees EMPL and FEMM, decided to draft jointly, an own initiative report on “Creating Labour Market conditions Favourable for Work-Life Balance”. The report is to serve as an input into the Commission’s Roadmap and provide the position of the Parliament on the work-life balance policies. The co-rapporteurs are: Tatjana Zdanoka (Greens/EFA) for EMPL and Vilija Blinkeviciute (S&D) for FEMM. In order to start this process and receive inputs, the Committees organized a public hearing on 22 March 2016, giving the floor to a pool of experts.

Paola Panzeri, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer was invited to present COFACE’s work and position on the European Commission upcoming initiative. In her speech, she highlighted the necessity of a coherent initiative that can support all families along the life-cycle and the importance of evaluating the positive and negative consequences that technologies can have in the world of work. Finally she presented the three main calls that COFACE is putting forward for this new initiative:
1. A comprehensive set of legislative measures for leave policies.
2. A monitoring and benchmarking system for care services provision within the EU semester (beyond childcare).
3. Policy guidance, awareness raising and share of practices for implementing better flexible working arrangements at Member States and company levels.

COFACE response to the public consultation
More information on the event click here

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How the digital revolution changes the way we work, produce and consume

robotBy Martin Schmalzried

The sixth edition of the IMCO Working Group on the Digital Single Market focused on the topic: “Digital jobs: how the digital revolution changes the way we work, produce and consume”. It brought together a number of experts and MEPs to discuss challenges that the digital revolution brings in our daily lives and how these challenges can be addressed by legislators. Two external experts gave very insightful keynote speeches:

Robert Atkinson, from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, underlined that the digital revolution has been overblown. Artificial intelligence is not around the corner, jobs will not be massively lost, the “gig” economy represents only 1% of the current work force in the US and will only slightly grow by 2020. Furthermore, the Gig economy is not about watering down labour laws, working conditions, undermining the welfare state and avoiding taxation but rather about increased flexibility of work, putting pressure on other services for increasing their efficiency/quality and providing better consumer service.

Stefan Herwig, from Mindbase Strategic Consulting, insisted on the need to regulate the digital economy to avoid the abuse of market power which could lead to market failure. He also addressed the question of online business models relying on the exploitation of personal data. From a survey carried out in Germany, 80% of people believe it is not OK for services to be offered for free but make money with the personal data of their users. New developments such as personal assistants like Google Now, Cortana and Siri pose a number of issues regarding user privacy and protecting their rights. More transparency is needed to help consumers navigate the digital revolution, but at the same time, we need stronger regulation to protect consumers but also the creative content industry. There is a clear struggle between the infrastructure (Google, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Amazon) which serves to disseminate digital content and the digital content creators. When comparing the “analog” creative industry with the “digital” creative industry, we see that the “digital” creative industry fares much worse in terms of growth and turnover. A new balance must be struck to ensure that both the creative industry and the infrastructure thrive, notably through a revised and better copyright law.

Finally, Edward Chancellor stresses in his work that the digital economy and the Internet does not affect the whole value chain. It has provided jobs for relatively few people. For instance, Google has only 33.000 full time employees. The Internet has produced a handful of billionaires but has done nothing regarding median household income.

COFACE is very sensitive to a number of these issues. The question of privacy and fair use of personal data is at the center of its lobbying activities within the Safer Internet policy area. While Robert Atkinson’s presentation minimizes the impact of digitalisation on work, production and consumption, COFACE is skeptical whether the changes that are yet to come will be “smooth” and gradual rather than disruptive. Even if developments in technology, robotics, AI, are gradual, there is no guarantee that the transition for families and workers will be smooth. Job creation may not be fully in sync with job destruction, creating large frictional unemployment which may even become structural as the workers whose jobs were destroyed might not have the necessary skills to transition to new jobs.

With regards to the gig economy, COFACE does not believe that it provides true flexibility, especially in terms of holidays, work life balance considerations, maternity/paternity leave, sick leave and so forth. While “traditional” workers have a paid holiday, paid sick leave, compensation for loss of employment, access to healthcare, access to maternity/paternity leave, gig economy workers are fully dependent financially upon their continued and uninterrupted work, with no guarantees such as minimum salary or maximum working hours.

Finally, COFACE has taken good note of the challenges posed by the unequal distribution of the benefits of the digital revolution and the Internet and will reflect on the way all parties can benefit. There should be a fairer distribution of wealth and profit between digital infrastructure companies and individual families where one or more members of the family is a content creator and which rely on the digital economy for their livelihood.

COFACE intends to hold a conference on how the digital revolution affects the lives of families and especially how it will affect the world of work. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social networks to receive updates on our upcoming events!

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Women domestic workers and carers & Parental Leave Directive reports

By Paola Panzeri

During the month of February two important reports, on Women domestic workers and carers in the EU (2015/2094(INI)) and on the application of Parental Leave Directive (2015/2097(INI)) were approved respectively in the FEMM (women’s rights and gender equality) and EMPL (employment and social affairs) Committees of the European Parliament.

COFACE welcomes the initiatives of the rapporteurs MEP Kuneva and MEP Arena for initiating these reports and bringing to light these two major challenges for families in the EU. COFACE is very engaged in both areas of work, at EU level and through its Members who provide advice and services to families.

The issue of women having to go abroad to look for a job, very often in the care sector and leaving their families, children and older parents behind is a growing trend in Europe and, considering the demographic projection, it will continue to grow. Therefore, we can easily imagine that also the number of transnational families will grow in number. However, specific policies to address their needs are still lacking and they will remain in this situation of vulnerability unless we start immediately to consider this as a European issue. The need for a systemic and coordinated response is, indeed, becoming more and more urgent. COFACE has been following this trend for the past few years and has dedicated its last major event, in November 2015 in Sofia (Bulgaria) to transnational families and the impact of economic migration on families.

In the past four years, COFACE has also intensively worked on policies to support families to better reconcile work and family life, and this includes leave provision such as parental leave. COFACE believes that parental leave is a key instrument and has welcomed the Social Partners agreement that led to a Directive. However, having legislation is only the first step because only if this is properly applied, it can have the positive impact that inspired its creation in the first place. For this reason, COFACE has welcomed this parliamentary initiative to recall the importance of monitoring and verifying the application into practice of European legislation. For more information about COFACE’s view on leave provisions and other legislative and soft law initiatives to support families reconciling work and family life, please consult the European Reconciliation Package.

The next steps for these reports will be their adoption with a vote in one of the upcoming plenary sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg and COFACE stands for their approval because even if these reports will have no binding obligation, they carry a strong political value. They, indeed, represent and demonstrate, once more, that many of the challenges that families face are shared at EU level and part of the solution may be found by working together for a European response.

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Reconciliation: a safety net for all families!

In August 2015, the Commission published a “Roadmap” for the initiative ‘A new start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families’ to replace the 2008 Commission proposal to revise the Maternity Leave Directive. The objective for this initiative is to increase the 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 and/or dependent relatives to better balance family and work life, allow for a greater sharing of care responsibilities between women and men, and to strengthen gender equality in the labour market.

The Commission has launched the first stage consultation with the European social partners to obtain their views on the possible direction of European Union action, in particular on legislative measures concerning family leaves and flexible working arrangements that could address these challenges.

COFACE regrets that the previous proposal for a Maternity Leave Directive has been withdrawn but welcomes this initiative and its composite approach that aims to put forward a comprehensive framework to support working parents and carers. However, COFACE would like to stress that reconciliation policies should be aiming to provide a supportive environment for all workers, regardless of their employment status (employee, self-employed..) and must not be considered solely as benefits for younger mothers, fathers or carers.

Challenges:

In addition to the challenges mentioned in the European Commission Roadmap, COFACE wants to alert for two possible risks that may arise if Work-Life Balance policies are not put forward taking into account the voice of citizens and families and that may work against the Work-Life Balance principle itself in the medium and long period:

1-Impact of technologies: more flexibility and smart working (positive) and shift from culture of presence at the workplace to culture of availability 24/7 (negative).

2-Promotion of freelance work and entrepreneurship as the only and best solution for all workers: while entrepreneurship, especially for women, must be supported, it has to be recognised that become self-employed and entrepreneur must be an informed choice and not the last resort to have some forms of work-life balance, or a form of individualisation of work that may exempt from the introduction of standards and policies enabling all workers (employee and self-employed) to reconcile their work and family /care responsibilities.

Demands:

COFACE asks for a coherent legislative package on leave policies, including maternity, paternity, parental and carers’ leave. Concerning parental leave, a principle of non-transferability should be applied to increase take up from fathers and age of children should be raised. Together with legislative measures, COFACE calls for a monitoring and benchmarking system for care services provision within the EU semester and policy guidance for implementing better flexible working arrangements at Member States and company levels.

COFACE would strongly highlight that all these measures must have an internal coherence so to be able to provide adequate support to families along the life-cycle becoming safety nets, preventing situations of vulnerability and poverty.

More information read COFACE’s European Reconciliation Package (ERP)
Read the ERP Recommendations
Read COFACE’s response to the EC consultation

 

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Work-life balance: you can!

wlbyoucanThis is the title of the book launched in the European Parliament on 27 January, in an event hosted by MEP Elena Gentile and MEP Patrizia Toia. The book gathers successful experiences of work-life balance from the Province of Trento (Italy) and is included in a wider framework of policies to support the reconciliation of work and family life that Trento is implementing. Luciano Malfer, Head of the Provincial Agency for Family Policies, presented the results of the action that are implemented in a systematic and coherent way across the policy spectrum, in order to support the different needs of families. Interesting to note that this actions are included within the local economic development framework and not as social policies, since, as Malfer said: “all policies supporting families and communities becomes automatically policies that boost local development”.

Some of the initiative from the Trento Province are also included in the European Reconciliation Package that COFACE launched in 2015 and among the Good practices on Reconciliation of Work and Family Life collected by EIGE – European Institute for Gender Equality, in 2014. Paola Panzeri, representing COFACE, underlined the importance of coherent measures to support families all along the life-cycle and that could respond to the different needs of families that may differ for each family and according to the specific moment. This is why it is important to have not only a good policies but a comprehensive and coherent framework that could work as a safety net on which families can rely according to their current needs, from childcare to elderly care, need for flexible employment or a period of leave.

More: Press release (in Italian)

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