EU Working Time Directive: don’t miss the train to support families, active ageing and gender equality

Brussels, 16 March 2015

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Today, many Europeans face challenges in reconciling care duties for children or older relatives with their work responsibilities. AGE Platform Europe and COFACE have joined forces to call for measures for improving working time arrangements in the upcoming review of the Working Time Directive.

In their responses to the consultation on the review of the European Commission Working Time Directive[1], AGE and COFACE highlighted the need for flexibility of working hours, to allow the participation of workers with care responsibilities, and especially older women, on the labour market.

“The labour market of today is very different to that of 20 years ago, when the first version of the Working Time Directive was adopted”, notes Agnes Uhereczky, the Director of COFACE.“The economic, social, and working-culture context has all changed. We have a great opportunity now to modernise the Directive, and we believe that it can become the foundation from which an improved labour market will emerge, not only protecting the interests of the most vulnerable workforce, but also going with the times, and offering greater flexibility for everyone.”

Indeed, today’s increased number of women on the labour market means a different working-life trajectory, departing from the male single breadwinner model. Women face multiple challenges throughout their working life, from caring for small children, to caring for disabled, or elderly relatives later in life, all the while the gender pay gap remaining at 16% across the EU. These circumstances add up to a high vulnerability at the age of retirement, as retired women earn 39% less in pensions than retired men.

Flexibility in working hours is one of the pillars in solving these discrepancies: individually adapted working time arrangements can allow a worker to both be present and productive at the workplace, without neglecting their caring role.

‘Older people are often very active and are highly productive in their jobs’, said Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary-General. ‘However, they have many additional roles: they may have to take care of their grandchildren, elder parents or partners in need of care. They might also engage in community work and volunteering and need some time for this. These activities are highly beneficial to society and the economy and should be unlocked by a review of the Working Time Directive.’

Flexible working times also make good business sense: instead of losing employees because of family duties, adapted working time arrangements could allow companies to retain them, avoiding the loss of investment in knowledge, experience and skills. In times of economic and financial pressure, this gain cannot be neglected. A reviewed Working Time Directive can contribute to a positive dynamic between employers and employees.

The Working Time Directive also has an important role in creating a level playing field in Europe and to avoid social dumping. Regulations on compensatory rest for additional working time, on-call or standby time protect the health and security of employees and enable them to continue in their job for longer. Dropping or loosening these regulations would increase health problems among older workers and put a burden on society, let alone on employees and their families.

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Useful links

[1]Directive 2003/88/EC

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