Reconciliation of work and family life: an issue for older workers as well

Brussels 18 February 2016

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EU consultation on reconciling work and family life – AGE response and policy paper

With the European Commission’s public consultation on the challenges of reconciling work and family life closing today, AGE recalls the importance of reconciling work and family life also for older workers – many of whom face duties of care for dependent family members and grandchildren. AGE has been calling for a regulated ‘carer’s leave’ in recent years and now presents a policy paper to frame the debate.

In its reponse to the consultation, AGE Platform Europe calls upon the European Commission and social partners to look at the situation of older workers when reviewing relevant existing legislations, collective agreements and practices to reconcile work and family life. One in five workers between 55 and 65 – most of them women – are caring for dependent relatives, while employment rates for this age group are dramatically low. Working grandparents have also a role in caring for their grandchildren. Both aspects should be reflected in the current review of provisions for working carers.

‘A European directive on carer’s leave would be a cornerstone to ensuring that carers can continue working, all while being there for their families’, said Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary-General. ‘It should adequately protect carers’ social situation such as statutory health, pension and unemployment insurances, and guarantee their income. Caring for a family member who has diseases such as Alzheimer’s can be very burdensome – this is why carers should also be supported by formal care services.’

In the policy paper, issued together with its response to the consultation, AGE Platform Europe highlights the contribution that carer’s leave arrangements can play for a more inclusive society: persons can be better cared for, carers do not need to step out of the labour market and are better protected, and society benefits from higher employment, experience and contributions of carers and better health. A basis to reach this is the stepping up of social investments into formal care infrastructure – affordable, available and high-quality long-term care services and support structures for informal carers. The local environment playing here a strong role, local and regional authorities should be empowered and funded to provide the supportive services their ageing population needs.

Many grandparents also help their adult children in caring for their grandchildren – when reviewing the provisions on parental leave, grandparents’ roles should also be underlined by making some of parental leave transferrable to other family members.

AGE member organisations Association for Women’s Career Development Hungary and Older Women’s Network Europe have also taken part in the consultation.

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