Family and Reconciliation

Reconciling work and family life is a challenge many families in Europe face. Parents often have to combine care work, i.e. child and/or elderly care, and paid work in their daily life. Therefore, the issue of reconciling work and family life has gained in importance in family policy throughout the member states of the EU. The EU member states follow different approaches with regard to cash benefits (for example child benefits or tax credits), time allowances (for example maternity leave provisions, parental or care leave provisions), and infrastructure (for example counselling and child care services). In addition, legal regulations resulting from family policies support certain family models. With regard to the legal equality of different forms of partnership and parenthood considerable differences exist throughout EU member states (see Equal Treatment & Equality).

On European level, the Lisbon Strategy introduced the aim of a higher degree of labour market participation among women (60 percent) throughout Europe. Europe 2020, the follow-up strategy covering the period 2010 to 2020, targets an overall employment rate of 75 percent among the 20-64 year-olds, including women. The focus is thus directed to the society as a whole and does not target women as a specific group.

In 2015, the European Commission launched a new initiative to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families. This initiative replaces the stalled maternity leave directive which was withdrawn by the Commission in July 2015. A second-stage consultation procedure is initiated by the European Commission to identify the main challenges arising from reconciling work and caring responsibilities. The results of the first consultation are now available. With its favourable vote on the report on “Creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance”, the European Parliament supports the endeavour of the European Commission and the Social Partners to present a comprehensive reconciliation package.

The announcement of a European pillar of social rights, which will set out essential principles to support well-functioning and fair labour markets and welfare systems within the euro area, addresses access to  social services, such as child care and long-term care, to enable individuals to fully participate in employment and society at large. In March 2016, a public consultation was launched to assess the present social “acquis” of the EU, determining the extent to which existing rights are practiced and remain relevant, or whether new ways to deliver on these rights should be considered.