European Reconciliation Package available in 4 languages!

ERP_ENFRESIT Homepage COFACE


As you know, COFACE launched on March 2015 the European Reconciliation Package, a unique policy document applying a systemic approach to the complex issue of work-life balance, to both its related challenges and possible solutions all over Europe.

This package highlights different policies and practices developed at local and national level that can support families in reconciling their work, family and care responsibilities. It reflects on the challenges and opportunities and presents recommendations of what needs to be done at EU and national level to empower families, and ultimately contributingto gender and pay equality, increased employment, improved childcare and care infrastructure and better wellbeing overall.

The publication is now available in English, Français, Español, Italiano. Choose your language and download it here!

#wlbpackage

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COFACE delegation meeting with Commissioner Thyssen

On the 20th April we were received by Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, her cabinet member Jonathan Stabenow and Stefan Olsson, Head of Unit in DG EMPL. Our delegation consisted of COFACE’s President Annemie Drieskens, our Vice-President from Greece, Antonia Torrens, and Agnes Uhereczky, COFACE’s director.

We really appreciate, that Commissioner Thyssen took time out of her busy schedule to meet with us, and we were able to give her in person a copy of the European Reconciliation Package, which we published in March 2015, following a year-long campaign and collaboration on the issue of reconciling work and family life in Europe.

Drieskens, Torrens Uhereczky Thyssen

from left: Antonia Torrens (Vice President), Annemie Drieskens (President), Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, Agnes Uhereczky (Director)

Commissioner Thyssen confirmed how important families are for society, and that policies aiming at supporting families, especially those in a vulnerable situation, like single parents, parents who have both little children and ageing relatives, working parents and carers are very important for Europe. Many of the issues we at COFACE are active on are at the heart of the new Commission’s policies.

The discussion turned to the issue of closing the existing gaps, between employed and unemployed people, between the employed and unemployed young people, which is a chronic problem now, but will also become a crisis for the future. Our Vice-President Antonia Torrens gave a first-hand account to the Commissioner about the experience of Greek families, where parents, sometimes already retired, are financially supporting their adult, unemployed children. We agreed, that investing in quality early childhood programmes are one of the crucial pillars in tackling this problem.

The COFACE delegation also presented the Commissioner the #FamiliesVOTE 2014 campaign and publication, with which we were aiming to inform our 30 million member families about the different political programmes of the Main European Parliamentary groups. As a former MEP herself, Commissioner Thyssen knows well the stakes at the EP and its composition. In terms of progressive, non-discriminatory family organisation, sometimes our job is simply to swim against the tide, and offer all families an alternative voice towards the European decision makers.

We also touched upon the review of the Europe 2020 strategy and objectives (COFACE and members participated at the open consultation) as well as the European Semester (we mentioned our Capacity building seminar). We agreed, that the European Semester policy coordination process is more social, than before, and that many of the country specific recommendations refer to family policy related issues. We also stated, that Member States also have to find their own solutions that fits within their own context, and there needs to be a more nuanced approach from the Commission towards individual member states.

The discussion also turned to the issue of families being concerned by different policies both at national and EU levels, and the communication and coordination challenges between the different DGs of the Commission and ministerial departments in the Member States. This concerns particularly the issue of leaves, allowances, and service provision, where families are sometimes totally left to fend for themselves, without adequate financial support, of accessible, affordable and quality services. This issue concerns in particular families with a disabled child, or other dependent family member, or families in a particularly vulnerable situation, be it financial, geographic disadvantage or due to other circumstance.

In closing we explored how we can use the UN ECOSOC consultative status of COFACE for more work on an intergovernmental level, also in relation to EU member states, and exchange of experience with 3rd countries.

The excellent meeting finished with a photo of the COFACE delegation handing over the European Reconciliation Package to Commissioner Thyssen, and mutual reassurances of the continued engagement and support to the objectives that unite both COFACE and the Commission.

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The final push! One last hope to save the European Maternity Leave Directive from being scrapped

matleaveWe finally have some news about the EU Maternity Leave Directive – and it’s pretty desperate. But let us quickly recap what happened until now:

– the EU Maternity leave Directive was originally adopted in 1992, introducing measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers, and workers who recently gave birth or are breastfeeding.

– There was a revision of this Directive, and as any Directive (aka binding legislation at EU level), it has to go through the co-decision procedure, which means, that the European Commission initiates, it goes for a 1st reading to the European Parliament, then to the Council (member states), and comes back for a 2nd reading to the European Parliament, after which it goes back to the Council for the final adoption.

Under normal circumstances this is a lengthy, but thorough process, and takes about a year. After all, now 28 EU Member States have to agree on a common law, which will set minimum standards in their countries.

The revised Maternity Leave Directive has been initiated by the Commission in 2008, the revised directive was adopted by a large majority in the European Parliament on 20 October 2010. As described above, then it went to the Council, who has been sitting on it since, without passing it back to the European Parliament for the 2nd reading. 10 Member States have been, and are still fervently blocking this piece of legislation, that would set important minimum standards for women about to give birth, and with new-born babies.

10 countries’ (1) ministers and heads of State have been sweeping this important directive under the EU policy making carpet for 5 years! In any democratic context, this is unacceptable.

Why this resistance you wonder? Well, it is, because the Directive sets a very high standard for pregnant women, namely, that once they give birth, they should be entitled to 100% of the salary they earned before for the 6 first weeks, (=full pay), without any ceilings or  exceptions. Is this really too much to ask for?

Do we really so desperately undervalue motherhood and childbearing? Could this happen to a Directive, if it was serving the interest of industry or banks? I seriously doubt it. They can get away with it, because they think they can.

This is the last chance, the 25th hour to act. Before the 25th May, we need you to help us give the final push, to put pressure on Commission Vice-President Timmermans to take out the Maternity leave Directive from the bin, and demand the Council to send it back to the European Parliament, who under the leadership of MEP Maria Arena are ready to modernise the Directive and grant women in Europe the rights they deserve!

We will join forces with the European Women’s Lobby, and urge you to sign this petition, and spread it to as many of your friends and family as you can, to show EU decision makers, that women’s rights, and maternal rights do matter and deserve action!

Steps to take:

– Please sign the petition
– Share it with your friends on Facebook, ask them to sign
– Tweet about it, using the hashtag #DeliverNow and if you like also #theFinalPush
– Tweet to your Ministers, MPs and anybody of influence, especially in those 10 countries mentioned above.

Thank you! Together, we can make a statement and make a difference!

(1) Germany, the Netherlands, Latvia, Hungary, Denmark, Cyprus, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, UK

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Financial inclusion and alternatives to mainstream banking for all families

All families have needs. Having a place to live, paying the bills, acquiring a means of transportation or simply being able to make and receive payments with a bank account. Financial services are essential to all households but some are excluded from access to basic financial products.

During a family’s life cycle, anything can happen: a spike in family spending, all of these situations can lead to not being able to pay back their loan. The results can be disastrous: getting new loans to pay for your old ones, falling deeper into debt and poverty, losing your belongings or even your home. All families are vulnerable when it comes to financial services.

What are the alternatives?

Independent financial guidance and a good financial education and awareness of the risks of the different choices allow families to take good financial decisions at key moments in their family life. Budgetary education helps families manage their budget better, like save up money for unforeseen expenditure like illness or accidents, to make more informed consumer choices, and avoid falling into traps like multiple credit cards.

There can be solidarity in financial services, via the mutualisation of certain risks, which would allow even low income families to have access to a mortgage or credit.

Better laws serving the interest of families and consumers are fundamental in ensuring access to fair financial products and services like bank accounts, credits, mortgages and lifting people out of poverty. They should support alternative banking institutions. Some of these measures include social and micro-credit initiatives, access to basic financial services such as a basic bank account or capping interest rates and preventing usury practices. Banks should carry out better credit-worthiness checks to avoid reckless lending practices.

The conference
Streaming Cibeles 11-12 May COFACE

The Municipal Institute of Consumption of the City Council of Madrid, the General Association of Consumers (ASGECO) and the Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (COFACE) will host a conference on the theme of financial inclusion and the alternatives to mainstream banking at the Palacio de Cibeles (Madrid City Council) in Madrid on 11-12 May 2015.

The conference will directly address some key issues about access to independent and quality information and essential financial products for families, showing that alternatives exist, even for the most vulnerable families.

Further information available on the conference’s page
To register to the conference please click here

Banner Madrid COFACE EN

 

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Calling for measures for improving working time arrangements

European Reconciliation Package COFACE Today’s increased number of women on the labour market means a different working-life trajectory, departing from the male single breadwinner model. Women face multiple challenges throughout their working life, from caring for small children, to caring for disabled, or elderly relatives later in life, all the while the gender pay gap remains at 16% across the EU. These circumstances add up to a high vulnerability at the age of retirement, as retired women earn 39% less in pensions than retired men.

Flexibility in working hours is one of the pillars in solving these discrepancies: individually adapted working time arrangements can allow a worker to both be present and productive at the workplace, without neglecting their caring role.

Flexible working times also make good business sense: instead of losing employees because of family duties, adapted working time arrangements could allow companies to retain them, avoiding the loss of investment in knowledge, experience and skills. In times of economic and financial pressure, this gain cannot be neglected.

COFACE has recently answered to the consultation on the review of the European Commission Working Time Directive and called for measures for improving working time arrangements in the upcoming review of the Directive. A reviewed Working Time Directive can contribute to a positive dynamic between employers and employees.

The Working Time Directive also has an important role in creating a level playing field in Europe and to avoid social dumping. Regulations on compensatory rest for additional working time, on-call or standby time protect the health and security of employees and enable them to continue in their job for longer. Dropping or loosening these regulations would increase health problems among older workers and put a burden on society, let alone on employees and their families.

Read COFACE’s response to the consultation on the Working-Time Directive
Read COFACE’s European Reconciliation Package

Posted in Companies, Employers, ERP, Family Carers, Gender equality, Women, Work/Life Balance, Working parents | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

COFACE’s Annual Report 2014 launched!

COFACE Annual Report 2014

2014 was a special year for COFACE. It was the year of our successful campaign Reconciling Work and Family life in Europe. We organised three main events in close collaboration with the Greek and Italian European Presidencies and with the Finish Minister of Social Welfare with the aim of sharing as widely as possible inspiring work-life balance practices. These were great opportunities to learn about the different aspects of reconciliation, the real challenges at national, regional, local and workplace levels, and also very inspiring to see all the different initiatives, that are making a difference in the lives of many working parents and carers.

2014 was also an election year in Europe. We organised a debate for the European Elections and released a publication which contained the comparative answers of the main political groups to a number of key questions such as reconciling work and family life, energy, migration and employment.

2014 was an important year for our successful #DeleteCyberbullying campaign. All along the year we promoted our awareness raising video “Cyberbullying: There is way out” and the #DeleteCyberbullying app.

And last but not least, in 2014, COFACE obtained special consultative status at the UN. This status enables COFACE to bring our European expertise to the global policy stage.

You will find statistics, infographics and interesting data on our 16 page Annual report. Download it HERE

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COFACE is launching the European Reconciliation Package !

We are pleased to launch the European Reconciliation Package, the main policy outcome of our 2014 Year of Reconciling Work and Family Life in Europe!

Poster ERP COFACE #wlbpackage

Over the past years we observed an increased preoccupation of European families with the challenges of balancing their family life and work responsibilities. Increased childcare costs, limited places, long commutes, hectic schedules coupled with job-insecurities mean that working parents and carers are finding it increasingly difficult to find long-term solutions that serve the interest off all family members.

We spent the past years cataloguing the problems faced by families, and analyzing and collecting inspiring practices and legal instruments at regional, national and EU level, as well as workplace solutions that work for all – not only working parents with small children.

We are very proud to present today the product of all this work –the European Reconciliation Package, that we hope will inspire many policy makers, employers, legislators in improving the working conditions, legal environment and care solutions for families in Europe.

The package highlights different policies and practices developed at local and national level that can support families in reconciling their work, family and care responsibilities. It reflects on the challenges and opportunities and presents recommendations  of what needs to be done at EU and national level to empower families, and ultimately contributing to gender and pay equality, increased employment, improved childcare and care infrastructure and better well-being overall.

The European Reconciliation Package analyses four main areas: Reconciling for carers, Women’s employment and the potential of reconciliation, Reconciling at the Workplace and Childcare solutions and education. For each area, a legislative and policy background outlines the current situation and some recommendation are putting forward as well as a number of existing practices in Europe.

ERP COFACE

Download a pdf version here

A French, Spanish and Italian version will be available by the end of the month here.

Tweet about the ERP using #wlbpackage @COFACE_EU

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