common minimum standards at EU-level for work-life balance policies, but these standards must not be the lowest common denominator;
need for a multi-level governance approach for the optimal implementation of the directive, given local and regional authorities' competences in matters that affect daily family life, such as childcare, care for the elderly and people with disabilities, education, social services and employment;
local and regional authorities, due to their proximity to citizens, local employers and businesses, should be fully involved in the implementation of the proposed new arrangements;
strengthening maternity rights;
changes to family structures to be more fully taken into account in the Commission's definition of paternity, by suggesting the possibility of recognising the right to paternity leave not only for fathers but for "persons legally recognised as such";
further efforts to be made to implement the Barcelona objectives on early childcare services.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- would argue that the responsibility for a suitable work-life balance is to be shared between workers, families, the social partners, local and regional authorities and all public and private employers and service providers;
- acknowledges the role played by local and regional authorities in this area, given their competences in matters that affect daily family life, such as childcare, care for the elderly and people with disabilities, education, social services and employment. Multi-level governance is therefore important for the optimal implementation of the directive;
- believes that work-life balance policies, including family leave, may contribute both to increasing employment rates of women and to higher fertility rates, leading to greater economic benefits for all. At the same time, it is important to ensure that family leave does not turn into a trap for women that further restricts their options on the labour market;
- regrets that the scope of the directive is limited to workers with a contract of employment or an employment relationship and that it does not cover the various forms of atypical work, such as the self-employed;
- regrets the lack of mention of the Barcelona objectives, which have not been met by all Member States, and efforts therefore need to be further stepped up to implement them;
- points out that the European Semester is a powerful tool in the area of fiscal policy and that it could be very helpful in giving Member States guidance and recommendations concerning economic disincentives for second earners, and guidance on care services;
- agrees with the proposal to grant paternity leave without prejudice to marital or family status, as defined in national law, to avoid any discrimination. It is a matter for the Member States to define the conditions of access and detailed arrangements for the application of parental leave where there are more than two applicants for such parental leave;
- welcomes the proposal to produce more and better data and stresses the need to collect data at local and regional level, in order to be able to shape policies in a targeted and resource-efficient way.