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The Euopean Parliament and the Council present their proposal for a directive on work-life balance for parents and carers and repealing Council Directive

The Commission’s proposed directive is one of the first deliverables of the European Pillar for Social Rights. It is based on the 'New Start' initiative aimed to address the work-life balance challenges faced by working parents and carers. The initiative will help in the pursuit of the objectives set out in the Treaty of equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and equal treatment at work and the promotion of high level of employment in the EU.

The legislative proposal thus aims to focus on targeting measures to address the under-representation of women in employment by improving the conditions of reconciling working and private duties, but also their unequal treatment and opportunities in the labour market. Furthermore, it encourages the strengthening of men's roles as carers in the family, which will also benefit children. It is well documented that the use of work-life balance arrangements by fathers, has demonstrated that they have a positive impact in reducing the relative amount of unpaid family work undertaken by women and leaving them more time for paid employment. It thereby promotes non-discrimination and fostering gender equality. The proposed Directive in its current form aims to cover all workers, men and women, who have an employment contract or employment relationship.

It seeks to introduce a number of new or higher minimum standards for parental, paternity and carers’ leave, which are geared at helping to address the anomalies that exist in achieving a work life balance for both parents and carers. The Rapporteur believes that these measures are both timely and necessary in order to improve access to work-life balance arrangements and to better reflect the changing working patterns in our society.

The Rapporteur further believes that the availability of quality, accessible, and affordable childcare infrastructure has proven to be a crucial aspect to work-life balance policies in the Member States and that facilitates the rapid return of women to work and their increased participation in the labour market. He would therefore encourage the Member States to improve childcare facilities and would like to see this reflected in the text; he therefore inserts related recital in the Directive.

Within the same spirit of Article 153 on which this Directive is being proposed the Rapporteur would like to introduce in addition to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) a specific emphasis on micro enterprises as the Rapporteur believes that due to their particular specificities and constraints, that are different from those of SMEs, they might find it more challenging to implement certain parts of this directive.

Throughout the text, the Rapporteur ensured that additional micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) provisions are added to ensure that this Directive shall avoid imposing administrative, financial and legal constraints in a way which would hold back the creation and development of such undertakings, without taking away the rights of their workers to avail themselves of work-life balance arrangements. As an example, the Rapporteur qualified in one of his amendments, without any prejudice to whether such a request should be granted or not by the employer that we should take into account the difficulties that flexible working arrangements may cause to MSMEs.

In order to address the concern that certain administrative burdens might be severely detrimental to micro enterprises the Rapporteur has proposed that Member States should have the option to adopt measures to limit the burden on micro enterprises from the provisions of Article 12 (Protection from dismissal and burden of proof), in order not to risk imposing a disproportionate burden on such enterprises.

More about this proposal.

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