Work-life balance policy

The new European proposal to improve work-life balance

Women Gender equality Sport

The measures are aimed at preventing inequalities between working men and women. The European Union estimates that on average women spend 22 unpaid hours every week caring for their children, 12 more than men.

This is proof that men and women in the EU do not experience work-life balance in the same way: responsibilities related to family care are the cause of professional inactivity for 20% of European women, but for only 2% of European men. "Living in the 21st Century means we need a 21st Century attitude towards life and work, towards men and women. Our daughters and sons shouldn't have to fulfil the role models of our grandparents", explains Frans Timmermans, first Vice-President of the European Commission (EC).

For this reason, the EC has drawn up a proposal on creating a balance between work and family life that establishes a series of new minimum standards — or standards that are broader in scope than those currently in force — with regards to parental leave, paternity and caregivers. "Balancing work and family life is a daily challenge for women and men all over Europe", says Vera Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. "Our new proposal aims to strengthen the rights and improve the conditions for working parents and carers to reconcile work and family responsibilities. It will give more flexibility and better protection to mothers, fathers, and carers, whether they wish to take time off caring for their children, benefit from flexible working arrangements or wish to go back to work".

improvements proposed by the European Commission



No minimum standards
for paternity leave
at EU-level.

All working fathers will be able to take at least
10 working days of paternity leave around
the time of birth of the child. Paternity leave
compensation must be on the same level as sick
leave compensation, regarding the latter as the
minimum level of compensation (in Spain, a one
month compensation has been established, but
this is not guaranteed in some countries).




At least 4 months per parent, out of
which one month is non-transferable
between parents.

Parents can take leave until their
child is 8 years old.

No minimum rules
on allowance/payment.

At least 4 months per parent that
cannot be transferred between parents.
Parents can take leave in flexible forms
(full-time, part-time, in a piecemeal way).

Parents can take leave until their child
is 12 years old.

Parental leave will be compensated at
least at the level of sick pay.




No minimum standards for carers at
EU-level (except "force majeure"
allowing to take short time off for
imperative and unexpected family reasons).

No minimum standards at EU-level
on the length of the leave nor

All workers will have the right
to 5 days of carers' leave per
year to take care of seriously ill or
dependent relatives.

Carers' leave will be compensated
at least at the level of sick pay.




Right to request reduced and flexible
working hours upon return from
parental leave.

Right to request part-time work
for all workers.

All working parents of children up to 12 and
carers with dependent relatives will have the
right to request the following flexible working

1. Reduced working hours.
2. Flexible working hours.
3. Flexibility on the place of work.





 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The work-life balance improvements proposed by the European Commission [PDF] External link, opens in new window.

The proposal establishes either new minimum standards or standards that are broader in scope than those currently in force in order to create greater convergence among the EU Member States. It offers the following advantages:

For the citizenry:

  • It improves the conditions for parents and caregivers with paid work and increases the rate of employment, earnings and career progress for women.
  • It reduces the wage and pension gaps as well as women's exposure to poverty.
  • Fathers will have greater opportunities and incentives to participate in family life.

For companies:

  • With more women in the labour market, the number of available qualified people will increase.
  • Decrease in the shortage of professional skills.
  • Companies, with their Reconciliation policy, will be better able to attract and retain their workers.

For the EU Member States:

  • Public finances will become more sustainable as unemployment decreases and tax revenues increase.

For the economy:

  • The increase in the supply of a labour force will boost competitiveness.
  • Demographic challenges will be better addressed by harnessing the best from our human capital.


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