A better work-life balance - David Casa
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A better work-life balance - David Casa

After almost a year and a half of work, a provisional political agreement was reached last week between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to introduce a new Work-Life Balance Directive for parents and carers. 

I led the negotiations for the European Parliament on this file.

Lifestyle and working patterns are changing our outlook on parenthood. 

Women need to be supported to join the workforce without impinging on the possibility to spend time with their children. They need the necessary support to reach their full potential in the work place. 

This cannot be achieved unless we foster a better sharing of caring responsibilities between both parents.

The directive will play an important role in achieving this much-needed work-life balance and will introduce minimum requirements that need to be implemented by all EU member states.

The aim is to focus on targeting measures to address both the under-representation of women in the workforce but also their unequal treatment and opportunities in the labour market. 

This will be achieved by improving the conditions of reconciling working and private duties. In doing so, women are given the opportunity to have more time for paid employment, thus promoting non-discrimination, foster gender equality and narrow the pay gap.

Lifestyle and working patterns are changing our outlook on parenthood

I firmly believe in the sharing of parental responsibilities, not only because this would greatly benefit the child and gives the option for more women to join the workforce but also because that strengthens men’s roles as carers in the family. 

Traditionally, in Malta it is women, even if well-educated, who are the main care givers in the home.

On the other hand, it is well-documented that work-life balance arrangements by fathers has a positive impact in reducing the relative amount of unpaid family work undertaken by women and giving them more time for paid employment.

I think that these measures are not only timely but necessary. They not only improve access to work-life balance arrangements but also reflect the changing working patterns in our society and the changing role of fathers and their increasing participation in family life.

Should both parents decide to work, these new rights will give children the opportunity to have both parents more present in their upbringing early on in their journey, as equals.

I believe our society and the economy as a whole will benefit from women with better careers and well integrated in the job market. Better sharing of caring responsibilities will create more financially-independent women, help in the advancement of women in society and ensure equality of pay, including the reduction of inequalities in later life.

Unequal working conditions and a lower pay due to the necessity of working fewer hours to care for children will result in a lower pension. This is an important element that will help reduce old-age poverty among women. 

According to the OECD, women are at greater risk of poverty than older men.

As the European Parliament rapporteur on this file, I am thrilled that an agreement has been reached with the Council of Ministers and am hopeful that the last hurdles for this proposed directive to become law will be quickly overcome as the impact on citizen’s lives will be immensely positive and concrete.

This directive seeks to introduce a set of minimum requirements to be implemented by all member states that cover parental, paternity and carers’ leave as well as the right to request flexible working arrangements. The impact on Maltese families will be particularly significant as we continue to lag behind many of our EU counterparts in terms of rights provided to parents. 

For example, at EU level, paid parental leave is already the case in a number of member states, including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Germany, Poland and Romania, but in Malta this is not the case.

In fact, once implemented, the uptake of parental leave will be required to be paid while the number of days of paternity leave will be increased from one to 10 days and will also be paid.

David Casa is a Nationalist MEP.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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