On June 22, the EPSCO Council, that brings together ministers responsible for employment, social affairs, health and consumer policy from all EU Member States, agreed on a General Approach, on the Work-life balance Directive. This means that the legislative process can continue and, with a vote in the European Parliament expected in July 2018, parents and carers can still hope to see this directive approved before the 2019 European elections.
The proposed Directive is the first piece of legislation to come out of the EU’s new European Pillar of Social Rights, proclaimed on November 17, 2017. A Directive under EU law is a binding piece of legislation that Member States transpose into their national jurisdiction. This Directive seeks to establish an adequate framework to address challenges parents and carers face every day, when juggling family life and professional obligations.
Autism-Europe urged ministers to support the Directive
Before the voting, several EU Member States opposed the ambition of the Directive, particularly with regards to the length and cost of paid parental and carer leave. Autism-Europe has thus joined other non-governmental organisations, trade unions, Members of the European Parliament and Members of the European Economic and Social Committee in an open letter urging Ministers to adopt a Council position on the proposal.
What is left of the original proposal?
COFACE Families Europe, the driving force behind the informal EU coalition set up to support the Directive and the #IwantWorkLifeBalance campaign, has expressed its satisfaction that the negotiation are going forward but also their deep concerns about the terms of the common position agreed at the EPSCO Council. Annemie Drieskens, COFACE Families Europe President:
“This is an important step towards the realisation of the ambitious proposal of European Commissioners Thyssen and Jourova. However, we have to strike a balance between recognising that Ministers agreed to move forward with the legislative process and the text that resulted from this decision. EPSCO Ministers have agreed on a text which has been emptied of many of its key components”.
This Directive was the first proposal that followed the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, when Member States committed to develop a framework for a social Europe. For this reason, a success of this text will also be a symbolic statement that Member States are committed to keep their word.
Indeed ministers have agreed on a text which has been emptied of many of its key elements. The initial Commission proposal included provisions that were a strong signal towards a fairer and more equal Europe, such as: full non-transferability of parental leave and a high income replacement, proposed as the equivalent of pay received during sick leave for all three leaves (paternity, parental and carers). The Member States, in their position, have gone backwards and deleted these fair and gender sensitive elements.
Autism-Europe will continue to work alongside COFACE and other European NGOs to advocate for a strong final text.
For more information, you can read COFACE‘s analysis of the Council position comparing it to the initial European Commission’s proposal, and COFACE’s position.