Zoltan Vadkerti is a work-life expert, blogger and co-founder of the WorkLife HUB.
The aim of the EU Directive on Work-Life Balance is to provide parents and carers with greater work flexibility and an improved level of work-life balance. The Directive is one of the elements of an overarching European level strategy that is to support parents as well as carers in the job market, encourage higher participation of mothers in paid employment, and boost a better share of leave arrangements between women and men. Importantly, the EU Member States are provided with 3 years to apply the new rights. The clock has started ticking back in august 2019.
In this article, we have summarized the most relevant information for you, and your organisation, about the Directive. We also provide practical ideas on how to turn the opportunities of the Directive into a strategic advantage and business results.
The most important features of the Work-Life Balance Directive
In brief, let’s just go through the most important new rights the Directive is introducing, that are particularly relevant to organisations and businesses in Europe:
- Paternity leave: fathers are going to be able to take 10 working days of paternity leave, that is to be taken on the occasion of the birth of the worker’s child. Individual and non-transferable, paternity leave is going to be a square-one right which shall not be made subject to a period of work qualification or a length of service qualification.
- Parental leave: under the new EU law Member States (MS) will need to ensure that each worker has an individual right to parental leave of 4 months, as well as that 2 months of parental leave cannot be transferred from one parent to the other. The level of pay is to be decided by each MS but should be set in a way through which it facilitates the take-up by each parent.
- Carers’ leave: the Directive introduces 5 days of unpaid carers’ leave per year.
- Right to request flexible working arrangements: this part of the Directive puts forward an extension of the existing right to request flexible working arrangements to all working parents of children up to at least 8 years old, and all carers. It will include reduced working hours, flexible working hours and remote working options.
It will be the responsibility of each government to put some form of structure and frame around the Work-life Balance Directive, and the responsibility of each employer to make it work. The new regulation and its different elements may seem challenging at first, we admit. How to manage the right to request flexible working in the workplace and make it an effective employer practice? How to make sure that the right to request flexible working is adaptable in occupations such as firefighters, police officers, nurses, teachers or army personnel? How to overcome the take-up barriers of paternity leave? How to tackle a parental leave stigma for fathers? It will certainly take time for organisations to get answers to these questions.
The truth, and what our experience tells us, is that work-life balance arrangements and policies can have a positive impact on the quality of life of employees, and can also contribute to the productivity of companies. (We speak about these advantages in great detail in our book, One Life.) For this reason, and following increased pressure by several global mega-trends, many organisations have already started to put in place work-life balance measures and programmes. But, how and with what steps can organisations start their work-life balance journey?
Solutions - where to start?
There are certainly many steps any organisation can take, or choose from, at the outset of implementing a work-life balance policy following the Directive. In the next points, we are providing a short outline of the most crucial ones.
- Review or establish work-life balance policies and procedures to ensure your legal obligations to the Work-life balance Directive are met. This policy should take into account the particular business objectives of your organisation and the personal needs of your employees. Guidance must be provided to employees for them to be able to decide on the most suitable work-life balance options that fit their circumstances. Guidance must be equally provided for HR and line managers supporting them to understand how various work-life balance policies, such as shared parental leave or carers’ leave, work in practice; how flexible working requests will be made, evaluated and coordinated.
- Establish procedures and information channels for your staff to follow the national-level implementation of the Work-life Balance Directive and how it is going to be made available to the workforce. Set up communication channels through which you can consult your employees, conduct yearly employee surveys to monitor implementation.
- Provide training for your staff and middle managers under your work-life balance policy and procedures. It is important to develop the right skills and the confidence of managers to support the take-up of these policies.
- Designate a competent colleague (Work-Life Integration Manager, Family Policy Officer, Employee Engagement Manager …) who could be in charge of the management of the work-life balance policies, the monitoring of implementation, the allocation of resources etc.
What our clients have said
We get it. Yet another legal obligation your organisation has to comply with. We have helped a number of companies that are faced with this paradox: they care about the success of their business, as much as about the wellbeing of their employees, but how to reconcile the two?
We regularly work with both small companies, as well as large institutions, who would like to improve the work-life balance of their employees, reduce the risk of burnout, improve wellbeing, and also design policies that will attract the brightest and the best.
Practical examples and tangible things to do. The suggestions were not just theoretical but gave you actual things that can be done and practised in real every day life. Not something that is impractical or difficult to do.
Good balance of research, tips and techniques to design an individual solution to finding work & personal life balance.
Get in touch
Would you like to know where your organisation is at in terms of its work-life balance policies? Would you like to check whether your organisation and people policies comply with the Work-life Balance Directive? Take our free work-life integration maturity assessment tool here. If you are interested in how we can support your organisation in establishing or reviewing its work-life balance policies and procedures - compliant with the new Directive - get in touch here.