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The rights of workers with caring responsibilities strengthened


Social Europe & Jobs
This afternoon, European Parliament negotiators, the European Commission and member states reached an agreement on the Work-Life Balance, a file the Socialists and Democrats had been pushing for as an integral part of the European Social Pillar to bring social progress to Europeans. The S&D Group led the drive to strengthen the rights of workers with caring responsibilities and welcomes the progress made, but regrets member states' lack of ambition to back up their promised with concrete measures and money.
S&D negotiator on the Work-Life Balance Directive, Marie Arena MEP, said:
“Millions of Europeans struggle between the demands of their jobs and their private life. Today's agreement between the European Parliament will make their lives a little bit easier. We achieved progress on three key issues:
Around the time of the birth of a child, fathers and equivalent second parents will be allowed to take ten days off paid at sick leave level.
Mothers and fathers will be entitled to parental leave of at least four months each, two of which are not transferable to the other parent. The payment defined by Member States must ensure decent living standards. 
People taking care of a sick relative or a person living with them will be able to take five days of carer’s leave.
“Moreover, the directive gives minimum standards on flexible working arrangements such remote working arrangements, flexible working schedules or reduction of working hours. We also committed the Commission to ensure that self-employed and adoptive parents will enjoy the same rights in the future. We also fought to include safeguards against any wrongful implementation of this directive by member states; and to make sure the EU will come back in the coming years with a new proposal to make life easier for workers and families.
“Although, we fought for more ambitious proposals, I am proud that after months of difficult negotiations we could for the first time establish the principles of paternity leave and carer’s leave at EU level, both of which, to date, do not exist in all EU countries.
“It was, however very disappointing to see that governments do not seem to have any interest in making the lives of workers and families easier and to advance on gender equality both at work and at home when it comes to the equal share of caring responsibilities. Workers taking care of their children or elderly family members should not have to worry about falling into poverty. Families deserve better than what member states are willing to give them. Only with adequate payment for all leave and laws that allow families to find a good balance between working and caring for children and the elderly, will we ever give men and women the choice to be equal workers, equal earners and equal carers."
Agnes Jongerius, MEP and S&D spokesperson on employment, added:
“The birth of a child is one of the most beautiful things in life. You want to be present at every moment. You want to be sure that you can see your child grow up and as a parent ensure that your child gets a good start. That is why the S&D continues to fight for a good work life balance. That is why we support the initiative that all parents, regardless of income, can take leave. Leave to strengthen the bond between parents and child. Leave to share domestic chores. Leave so mothers have a better chance on the labour market.
“The Work-Life Balance will be the first concrete result of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Cynically, the very conservative governments who in a ceremony in Gothenburg in November 2017 solemnly pledged to advance the social rights of their citizens, have these past months done everything to water down the Commission’s proposal. We will do everything in our power to make sure governments cannot back out of their promises to advance the rights of workers and their families. Millions of Europeans are waiting for social progress and we won’t let them off the hook.”


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