Work-Life Balance: an EU’s Perspective

Malta, like Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Ireland still occupy the lowest female participation rates in Europe[1]. In 2012, José Manuel Barroso, President of the then European Commission, highlighted in his State of the Union speech: ‘It is precisely those European countries with the most effective social protection systems and with the most developed social partnerships that are among the most successful and competitive economies in the world.[2]

In fact, Sweden has one of the highest female employment rates in Europe due to family-friendly employment policies, generous parental leave, coupled with investment in universal provision of care for children[3]. Companies in Italy and France have the highest percentages towards a positive attitude to work-life balance issues, according to a survey conducted by Eurofound[4].

Several EU Directives exist that provide minimum standards in areas related to work-life balance, in such areas as maternity leave[5], parental leave[6] and part time[7]. There are also targets like the Barcelona Targets[8] to improve the provisions of childcare, and policy guidance such as the Social Investment Package to introduce flexible working arrangements. However, despite existing EU legislation, country-specific monitoring and recommendations to improve work-life balance, the situation in Member States remains uneven.

It is for this reason, that the EU has developed a roadmap entitled ‘New start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families’, encouraging partnership between stakeholders[9], to ensure the modernisation of current EU legal and policy framework and adapt it to today’s labour market to allow parents with children or workers with dependent relatives, to better balance caring and professional responsibilities[10]. Further consultation with social partners was carried out by the European Commission, which is expected to launch a proposal on the subject[11]. A common framework will guarantee a competitive level playing field, where individual Member States will not hesitate to regulate in this area on their own, and this will not influence their relative competitiveness compared to other Member States[12].

The modernisation of EU legal and policy framework will assist labour markets to become more inclusive. Measures encouraging and enabling men and fathers to use more leave and flexible working arrangements will lead to better redistribution of tasks and care responsibilities, in turn enabling women to participate more actively in the labour market[13].

On the 23rd January 2017, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) is organizing a Business Breakfast for employers on this subject. Employers can get informed on different types of FFMs and on how their companies can benefit from having motivated employees. This event is part of the project ‘Equality Beyond Gender Roles’, co-financing by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme 2014-2020 of the European Union.

Employers are encouraged to participate. For more information contact NCPE on equality@gov.mt or by calling 2590 3850

*  *  *

[1] Labour Market Participation of Women http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/pdf/themes/2015/labour_market_participation_women_20151126.pdf

[2] European Commission (2012), State of the Union 2012 Address

[3] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020

[4] Eurofound (2013), EU Level: EU employers take family-friendly working seriously

[5] Pregnant Workers (Maternity Leave) Directive (92/85/EEC)

[6] Parental Leave Directive (2010/18/EU)

[7] Directive on Part-Time Work (97/81/EC)

[8] Barcelona targets: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/documents/130531_barcelona_en.pdf

[9] Like representatives of SMEs and micro-businesses, the European Parliament, Member States and NGOs active in the field of work-life balance and gender equality

[10] Roadmap (2015), New start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families

[11] A new start for parents and caregivers: Commission launches second-stage consultation of EU social partner organisations on work-life balance http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&newsId=2582&furtherNews=yes

[12] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020

[13] Roadmap (2015), New start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families

rec-co-financing

“This publication has been produced with the financial support of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission”.

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