The EU Parliament voted on a new Directive on Work-Life Balance for parents and carers to introduce a “minimum of conditions that are designed to achieve equality between men and women”. This is a significant step forward for more active inclusion of fathers in the child-rearing process and a more equal status of women professionals in the workforce. Across the EU, the lion’s share of maternal and parental leaves is used by mothers. The initial goal of the Directive is to enable a better work-life balance primarily for female professionals so that they can seek employment and advance in their careers alongside their male colleagues, i.e. partners. The current situation is unfavourable towards women; it is marked by stereotypes and prejudices that reduce the possibilities of employment and career development. This causes losses for businesses and society at large because the existing talents are not being efficiently utilized. Furthermore, the restrictions present in the labour market and the lack of work-life balance discourage working professionals from starting a family; this hurts fertility rates in society. In countries where parental leaves are relatively long, some employers are less inclined to employ young women because they assume they will be absent for prolonged periods of time.
Paid 10-Day Paternal Leave for an Active Role in Childcare
The Directive seeks to lessen the negative impact of stereotypes by dividing parental obligations between the two parents. The 10-day paternal leave enables fathers to spend time together with their child during their earliest days of infancy, and share the responsibilities of parenthood with the mother during this challenging period. Research has hitherto shown that even short periods of paternal leave have a positive impact on household work distribution and the time that fathers spend with their children after they leave. This period spent at home brings fathers closer to their children and shatters the “fear” of carrying a small child, which is commonly conditioned by traditional notions of childcare. The implementation of paternal leave helps to change the culture where childcare is primarily seen as the responsibility of the mother and enables fathers to spend time with their newborn without judgement. Fathers’ active engagement with their children brings many cognitive and emotional benefits which make for happier and healthier children. The amount of financial compensation during paternal leave has been a recognized barrier towards wider use of paternal leave; the Directive prescribes that fathers be compensated at least in the amounts they would get for sick leave.
4+4 Months of Parental Leave, of which 2 Are Non-Transferable
The Directive also introduces four months of parental leave per parent, of which two cannot be transferred to the other parent. The Directive does not cover the so-called maternal leave, the length of which varies by country, from 6 to 52 weeks. Parental leave is the period that comes after maternal leave.
Flexible Working Arrangements
In the domain of childcare, a significant step forward is the introduction of the right to request flexible working arrangements for parents of children up to 8 years old. This is particularly significant for countries in Southeast Europe, as they do not have developed a culture of flexibility. The main drawback is that the Directive provides for only a right for the employee to request flexible working arrangements, but the employer has no obligation to accept the request, as the earlier drafts of the Directive provided. However, considering the current trends in the labour market and the availability of workforce, we hope that the employers will recognize the advantages of flexibility, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talents. A significant portion of the MAMFORCE Society already recognized this advantage and offers flexible working arrangements, along with other employee benefits.
5-Day Carers Leave for Family Members
In addition, the Directive introduces the so-called carers leave meant to facilitate care for family members in need. The duration of carers leave is five days per employee, and it also represents a significant step forward considering the needs of an increasingly ageing population.
This is an excellent opportunity for companies that want to be recognized for best practices before the implementation of the Directive.
The adopted EU Directive is an opportunity for companies to implement best practices now before it is mandatory by law. This will position them as responsible employers and enable them to attract young, talented people making the company more competitive. By implementing the MAMFORCE Standard, we can help you in achieving that goal.
Diana K. Deskovic, MAMFORCE, CEO