The Pillar of Social Rights was presented by the European Commission at the end of April. A key point – and the single legislative measure in an otherwise very non-committal package – is the Directive on Work-Life Balance. Its objective is to create legal certainty for parents and carers.
In concrete terms, the objective of the Directive is to ensure a higher participation of fathers and positive effects for women in the labour market. After maternity leave, it is often difficult for women to resume their career and all too often they have to put up with the loss of previous areas of responsibility or have to accept part-time employment. The proposal of the Commission provides for a legal claim by fathers for a “dad month” of at least ten days as well as a claim for paternity leave of at least four months, which cannot be transferred to the partner. Apart from that, it shall be ensured that the replacement income is at least as high as the sick pay in the respective country.
For the first time, the Directive also provides for “leave” for carers of five days if a direct relative falls ill. The proposal also grants parents of children of up to twelve years of age and carers the right to apply for flexible working hours.
The three points from the Chamber of Labour's (BAK) point of view are:
Paternity leave: The BAK supports paid paternity leave as provided for in the draft Directive. However, ten working days for the birth of a child are too short to achieve the objective in the proposal of increased paternal participation. One should aim at a period of one month.
Parental leave: The BAK generally welcomes the fact that individual claims for at least four months paid parental leave shall be created for both parents to provide fathers with more incentives to participate. However, at the same time one has to reflect that this proposal does not give any consideration to single parents. Apart from that, companies are granted a right of postponement – they may, should operational processes be disrupted, delay the time of the parental leave. However, this contradicts the original idea and is therefore firmly rejected by the BAK.
Flexible working hours: The BAK generally supports flexible working hours for parents (at least until a child is 12) and for carers as well as the right to return to full employment with previous areas of responsibility. However, an option granted to employers to refuse is viewed critically.