For debate in the Standing Committee see Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure
Pour débat à la Commission permanente – Voir article 15 du Règlement
15 January 2002
Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Rapporteur: Ms Ans Zwerver, Netherlands, Socialist Group
Although parental leave was introduced more than a century ago, we note that for the moment, it is not applied systematically in the member states and that governments hesitate to take the steps necessary to ensure that the law is implemented as effectively as possible.
Indeed, even though the predominant aspiration among European women is to work and have children, family policies still tend to operate along patriarchal lines.
The Assembly therefore recommends that the governments of member states introduce the principle of paid parental leave, including adoption leave and enact laws encouraging parental responsibility, by means of part-time work and flexible working time.
The Assembly also recommends that the necessary steps be taken to assist parents to return to employment.
I. Draft resolution
1. Parental leave was first introduced in Europe more than a century ago as a key element of social and employment policies for women in work at the time of childbirth. Its purpose was to protect the health of mothers and to enable them to look after their children.
2. Parental leave has since been adapted to meet the needs not only of women but also of men who wish to balance work and family life and ensure their children’s well-being.
3. The issue of parental leave is closely linked to that of the role of men in family life, since it permits a genuine partnership in the sharing of responsibilities in both the private and the public sphere.
4. The Assembly observes that parental leave legislation, to be effective, must be correctly and systematically implemented and backed by measures to create an environment conducive to such leave.
5. In this regard, the Assembly refers to Committee of Ministers Recommendation R (94) 14, which aimed to encourage governments to “support the implementation of coherent and integrated family policies” and laid down as a basic principle that “the family must be a place where equality, including legal equality, […] is especially promoted by sharing responsibility for running the home and looking after children, and, more specifically, by ensuring that mother and father take turns and complement each other in carrying out their respective roles”.
6. It also refers to its Resolution 1018 (1998) on equality of rights between men and women, in which it invited member states to introduce into their legislation the principle of parental leave and the concept of paid leave for one of the parents for the purpose of looking after their children.
7. However, it is disappointed to note that, despite all that has been done, parental leave is not applied equally in all member states and motherhood is still an obstacle to women’s careers in many countries.
8. The Assembly therefore urges the governments of member states:
i. to take the necessary steps to introduce the principle of paid parental leave into their legislation which recognises different types of family structures, if they have not already done so, including adoption leave;
ii. to set up suitable structures for the implementation of parental leave, including adoption leave;
iii. to enact laws encouraging parental responsibility, by means in particular of part-time work and flexible working time;
iv. to take the necessary steps to assist parents to return to employment after a period of parental leave;
v. to launch campaigns to raise awareness among unions, social partners and especially employers about the need for systems of help with childcare;
vi. to investigate possibilities of home-based jobs;
vii. to consider as a basic necessity the creation of childcare centres.
II. Explanatory memorandum by Ms Zwerver
1. Parental leave is a social and employment policy that was introduced more than a century ago to protect the health of working women when they had children.
2. We have also to make a distinction between maternity leave and paternity leave. Maternity leave is only for the mothers who just gave birth to a child. This right cannot be transmitted to the father.
3. Paternity leave is for the fathers when the child is coming and allowes the parents to take care together of the new-born child. This leave is not very frequent in the European countries.
4. Parental leave has various applications in Europe. It authorises the mother or the father, on an equal basis, to take a leave in order to take care of the little children.
5. More recently, parental leave has been redefined to fit the needs of women and also men who want to balance work and family life and ensure their children’s well-being.
6. This has created important new options with regard to childcare, while providing a tool with which to promote gender equality policy.
7. Maternity leave or leave for the purpose of looking after little children has become the norm in most parts of Europe, although arrangements vary from country to country.
8. In this respect, two distinct trends can be observed to organise parental leave:
- the first is to encourage domestic work and to look after the children and to stop working while the children are still small, by means of incentives;
- the second is to make easier for women her life out of the home and domestic work. The aim is to balance work and family, while protecting and promoting the children’s well-being.
9. This report aims to show that the laws on parental leave, as applied by the various member states of the Council of Europe, can help achieve a balance between work and family life when they are correctly implemented and backed by measures to create an environment conducive to such leave. The equality in the work and family life cannot be achieved as long as social measures concerning professional life are not appliee on an equal basis between women and men.
I. Parental leave: a policy for balancing family and career
10. The issue of parental leave is closely linked with the issue of men’s role in family life. Developing European systems for parental leave inevitably requires to question the social patterns and problems that interfere with the adoption of a sensitive approach to gender equality in all areas of life.
11. In the Council of Europe, a clear consensus is emerging about increased male involvement in the private sphere, as highlighted at the 4th European ministerial conference on equality between women and men held in Istanbul on 13 and 14 November 1997. Such involvement has undeniable advantages for men and children alike. In many countries, too, there have been progress in the way men view women, with the result that men are increasingly willing to assume childcare responsibilities, and to put their family before their career.
12. The old stereotypes still exist, however, so that even if men are genuinely willing to assume their share of domestic responsibilities, the social set-up makes this difficult because of the enduring notion that men should be the breadwinners. Men thus need to understand that family life is essential for both women and men and that sharing responsibilities both inside and outside the home makes it easier for everyone to achieve their full potential.
13. It would be all too easy, however, to lay the blame on men, when in actual fact many women are reluctant to share family and domestic duties, in particular childcare.
A. Definition and objectives
i. The legislative approach
14. The stated objective of all this legislation is to establish minimum requirements in Europe with regard to parental leave and absence from work in an emergency, as an important mean of reconciling working life and family responsibilities and promoting equal opportunities and treatment for women and men.
15. Parental leave is part of a wider policy to introduce greater equality between women and men, which encompasses social policy, employment policy and issues relating to the care of dependants (elderly persons or children). The idea is to map out guiding principles with regard to motherhood and fatherhood, and to determine the best way of combining family and career without detriment to either.
16. Favouring such equality means establishing a basis for a balanced division of responsibilities and rights between women and men, in all the various spheres of society – at home, in the community and at work. This process should give both women and men a wider choice of lifestyles, and the opportunity to change traditional gender-specific roles and stereotypes. For couples, the possibility of both partners working and having a family must be backed by appropriate legislation and social policies.
17. The Council of Europe has taken measures to promote greater gender equality when it comes to reconciling work and family commitments. This equality is enshrined in various rights, including firstly some general ones: the principle of equality of rights and responsibilities between spouses, for example, has been incorporated into Protocol No. 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
18. The European Social Charter also contains a number of specific rights in favour of women: equal remuneration for male and female workers, maternity protection and protection of women at work, social and economic protection for mothers and children. The additional protocol of 1988 enshrines the right to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation without discrimination on the grounds of sex.
19. In its Recommendation R(94)14, the Committee of Ministers urged member state governments to “support the implementation of coherent and integrated family policies on the basis of the following principles: consultation, co-ordination, efficiency and flexibility; these principles to be applied across the board, at local, regional and national level, as appropriate.” In the appendix to this Recommendation, the Committee of Ministers establishes the basic principle that “the family must be a place where equality, including legal equality, between women and men is especially promoted by sharing responsibility for running the home and looking after children, and, more specifically, by ensuring that mother and father take turns and complement each other in carrying out their respective roles. The public authorities should promote the harmonious reconciliation of family life and working life.”
20. The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, in its Resolution 1018 (1994) on equality of rights between men and women, urged the member States to take action to further equality between women and men in working life:
• “by stressing the need to organise occupational life, particularly working hours, in such a way that men and women are able to look after their children, share household tasks and dovetail these tasks with their occupational activities;
• by introducing the principle of parental leave into their legislation, as well as the concept of paid leave for one of the parents for the purpose of looking after their children;
• by promoting satisfactory day-care and other arrangements so as to enable both parents to go out to work.”
21. Finally, the Social Charter (Preamble, Part I, 27 and part II, Article 27) states that “all persons with family responsibilities and who are engaged or wish to engage in employment have a right to do so (…) without conflict between their employment and family responsibilities” and that measures must be taken “to provide a possibility for either parent to obtain, during a period after maternity leave, parental leave to take care of a child, the duration and conditions of which should be determined by national legislation, collective agreements or practice.”
22. Current EU legislation (Council Directive 96/34/EC of 3 June 1996) recognises “that an effective policy of equal opportunities presupposes an integrated overall strategy allowing for better organisation of working hours and greater flexibility, and for an easier return to working life”. This approach is also informed by socio-demographic considerations: an ageing population, the closing of the generation gap and women’s participation in the labour force. The aim, finally, is to encourage men to assume a bigger share of family responsibilities. Parental leave is thus distinct from maternity leave and the European Union grants men and women workers an individual right to parental leave “on the grounds of the birth or adoption of a child to enable them to take care of that child, for at least three months, until a given age up to 8 years.”
23. This framework agreement provides legal protection for parents who wish to take parental leave, including protection against dismissal. At the end of their parental leave, workers have the right to return to the same job or, if that is not possible, to an equivalent or similar job consistent with their employment contract or employment relationship.
24. There is, of course, nothing to prevent states from introducing more favourable provisions than those recommended by the supra-national institutions.
ii. Varied implementations
a. Comprehensive schemes in societies where the concept of equal opportunities is culturally accepted
25. The Swedish scheme is undoubtedly the most sophisticated. Introduced over 25 years ago, it is probably the most effective in Europe, with parents entitled to up to 15 months’ highly paid leave. The system is also very flexible and measures have been introduced to promote leave for men. Small wonder, then, that 75% of Swedish men choose to take parental leave, including, only in Europe, male politicians. The secret of the Swedish policy lies in its integrated approach: the goals pursued alongside the introduction of parental leave are financial independence for women, greater male involvement in childcare and the well-being of children.
26. Denmark is similarly unstinting in its support for families. Danes take a minimum of
4 weeks’ prenatal parental leave followed by 6 months’ maternity leave on full pay. Parental leave is paid to the tune of 80% of the maximum rate of unemployment benefit and fathers are entitled to twelve weeks off work. This generous scheme was introduced in 1984 in response to a sharp fall in the birth rate (1.38 children per woman). The government decided to introduce measures to reverse the trend, including doubling the length of maternity leave and raising the level of benefits. The birth rate climbed to 1.81 children per woman, with a female employment rate of 73%, the highest in Europe.
27. Austria has a comprehensive body of laws to protect the rights of working mothers and deal with matters relating to parental leave. The right to maternity leave is covered by the law on the protection of mothers. This right was extended to fathers by the law on parental leave in 1989, which was amended in 1990 to allow parents to remain at home until the child’s second birthday and longer in the case of part-time parental leave. The Austrian legal system allows parents to take at least 3 months’ parental leave for children under the age of two.
28. The law gives parents considerable leeway in how they choose to exercise this right: it can be shared equally between the mother and father, and parents worried about losing touch with today’s fast-changing workplace can arrange with their employer to take half-time leave, in which case the arrangement can be extended until the child’s fourth birthday. In the four weeks following parental leave and when the person has returned to work, they are entitled to extended protection against dismissal.
29. Despite these laws, however, take-up of parental leave was very low among fathers and a new law was passed in 1996. This allows parental leave benefits to be paid up to the child’s second birthday, if the parental leave period is split between the two parents and if one of them, usually the father, takes at least 6 months over the 2-year duration of the leave. Single mothers or spouses who do not earn enough to be able to afford to take long periods of parental leave can claim increased benefits provided they meet the conditions. Since
January 1998, parents on parental leave had the option of taking an additional part-time job. The benefit in that case will continue to be paid, but at a lower rate based on the level of earnings. The idea is to improve the person’s chances of a successful return to work.
b. Incomplete schemes: genuine commitment introducing rules, but less-than-optimal delivery
30. In the United Kingdom, “family-friendly” policies proceed from the recognition that women and men are increasingly anxious to play a role in their children’s upbringing. In 1998, new directives enabled workers to achieve a better balance between work and family responsibilities, by allowing most workers, for example, to refuse to work more than 48 hours per week. In addition, parents can take up to three months’ parental leave at the time of the birth or adoption of a child.
31. In the Netherlands, parents – male or female - are allowed to stop work for a given period and/or reduce their working hours. The statutory conditions for unpaid parental leave were introduced on 1 January 1991 and allow employees to reduce their working hours to
20 hours a week for a period of six months. This right, which applies to both parents, is
not transferable and regarded as a basic minimum, in the knowledge that unions and management can make more generous arrangements under collective agreements. In the public sector, paid parental leave has been available since 1989 and allows employees to reduce their working hours by up to half over a six-month period, while still drawing 75% of their pay. In this context, employees must have completed at least one year’s service and work at least 16 hours a week. Dutch families, furthermore, can claim a universal benefit which covers around a third of the costs entailed in having a baby.
32. Finland was one of the first countries in the world (1978) to introduce special paternity leave, ranging from 6 to 12 working days at the time of the birth. It is proving increasingly popular with fathers.
33. Whereas other Scandinavian countries have focused on enabling the mother to combine gainful employment and motherhood, if only through part-time work, Finland has concentrated on making it easier for mothers of young children to stay at home. Parental leave in Finland is generous, at around 11 weeks, and when it ends, working mothers can claim a further period to enable them to stay at home until their child reaches the age of 3 or even more. During this period, they receive a benefit for caring for the child at home. Fathers have the same entitlements, but only a small minority choose to avail themselves of parental or child-rearing leave.
34. The German government, not content merely to raise family allowances, also grants tax relief to families. The law on parental benefits, the “Erziehungsgeld-Gesetz”, has been amended, moreover, to enable young couples to plan their lives as they wish. More flexible parental leave arrangements afford young parents greater freedom: they can now take their parental leave together instead of having to take it one after the other, as it was previously the case. Furthermore, the possibilities for part-time working during parental leave have been extended. Fathers can thus make greater use of parental leave without risk to their family’s financial health. These provisions are also popular with employers, loath to part completely with good workers who want to take parental leave.
35. Parental leave is long-term leave for the purpose of looking after young children. As we have seen, it is available to both mothers and fathers, on the same terms. Unfortunately, though, in many countries, take-up is still largely concentrated among female employees (99 times out of 100 in France), which immediately raises questions about the status of women in relation to work. Women who work find themselves caught in a paradox:
• on the one hand, motherhood is still a barrier to professional success in many countries. This, too, is one of the arguments commonly used to drive women back into the home during periods of unemployment;
• on the other hand, although women have been encouraged since the 1960s to embrace the standard “male” model of employment (ie full-time, overtime, etc) in the name of gender equality, society has not adapted accordingly.
i. Less-than-optimal implementation
36. Take-up of parental leave among men is still very low: in Germany and southern Europe, the percentage of fathers who stop work to look after their children varies between 2.5 and 5%. The figures are more encouraging in Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway, where the rate is just under 10%. Overall, however, parental leave is not shared evenly, despite the existence of appropriate mechanisms.
37. While it is considered normal and usual to take time off occasionally for training, voluntary work or study, parental leave is still viewed somewhat askance. The first three are as much male practices as female ones, so why the imbalance in take-up of parental leave?
38. Under Denmark’s extended leave scheme (up to one year), all employees, men and women, are entitled to parental leave as well as educational leave or sabbaticals. Research shows that this arrangement has proved very popular.
39. In the United Kingdom, although policies exist, take-up tends to be very low because parents cannot afford to avail themselves of the facility. For the public and private sectors combined, only 5% of employers offer all of the following: maternity pay, paternity leave, childcare arrangements and flexible working hours. Only 19% offer three out of the four, while 65% offer two out of the four. Only 10% of workplaces provide practical help with childcare. 2% of employers have an on-site crèche and 1% pay for daycare facilities. Schemes to keep children occupied during school holidays are usually run by associations.
40. The current EU directive (Directive 96/34/EC) provides for three months’ parental leave; it does not address the financial aspect, however, and fails to envisage sufficient ways in which leave might be shared between men and women, or parents encouraged to combine work with time devoted to childcare. Instead, it merely lays down some minimum standards.
41. In the member countries of the Council of Europe, there are wide disparities where parental leave is concerned. Estonia, for example, recognises that it is one of those countries for which the break with communism has marked a return to more traditional male and female roles in the home. A growing number of women are working part-time, but Estonia has no statistics for those who would like to work full-time. During the Soviet era, the official view was that men and women were equal, but not entitled to make decisions affecting their own lives. For some years now, inequality has been growing between men and women, particularly in the workplace. Within society at large, there has been a shift back to traditional roles and government efforts to promote greater equality have been hampered by adverse economic conditions. Such measures are unlikely to strike a chord with ordinary Estonians, but in the run-up to European integration, efforts are being made and training courses organised for senior officials under the Phare programme.
42. Polish women profit of an elaborated system because they are allowed to take a non paid parental leave of three years until the child is four years old. This leave can also be taken by the father. Moreover, this right to parental leave and to days off for the illness of the child has been extended to the fathers in 1996. However, these rights are constantly called in question by the politics who, even though the full time work of the women has been accepted in Poland, try to redefine the sharing of the tasks of the women within the work and family life. These granted rights have a good chance to be compromised.
ii. Hidden dangers
43. If countries simply settle for the minimum (that is to say, 3 months’ unpaid leave), parental leave is liable to become an under-utilised or misused instrument, causing women to go back into the home and perpetuating inequalities. It is important that it be applied to men and women alike; otherwise these inequalities will persist and perpetuate stereotyped traditional male and female roles.
44. Even though the predominant aspiration among European women is to work and have children, family policies still tend to operate along patriarchal lines. In many countries, women are still encouraged to choose between motherhood and a career. Nor do they have much time in which to make up their minds: between the ages of 20 and 30, women must make hard choices between work and family - choices that are conditioned by environmental factors: maternity laws, childcare provision, etc.
45. In France, the Allocation Parentale d’Education (APE), which has been available since 1994 to all young parents on the birth of their second child, has had some insidious
side-effects, triggering a mass exodus of women from the labour force in less than 5 years. In a complete reversal of the previous trend, the number of mothers with two children under the age of 3 who are in receipt of this benefit and thus back in the home “full-time” is now greater than the total number still employed, ie: 303,000 compared with 277,500, the number of non-working mothers between the ages of 25 and 29 having thus tripled. The more precarious the job, the more inclined women are to avail themselves of such provision. The figures mentioned above mainly concern young mothers who work part-time or who have given up work altogether.
46. It also appears that there is a danger with excessively long breaks: it has been found in many countries that, after 12 months away from the workplace, women seldom return to their old job and may opt for less skilled work. According to a survey by INSEE (the French national statistical institute), 6 out of 10 non-working women would like to work, but if they choose not to return after a prolonged break, it tends to be for the same reasons: motherhood, marriage or child rearing. Hungary has developed a system of parental leave, which is a positive point, but which does not avoid the interruption of the carrier and limits by this way, the possibility of promotion. In the same way, Bulgaria set up a framework favouring parental leave, but aiming to support motherhood and its pattern of the family with three children. By the way, the employers cannot refuse the right to parental leave. This leave begins 45 days before the birth of the child until its third birthday. This leave is payed for the three first children until the child is two years old; afterwards this leave can be extended but is not paid. If, after the second birthday of the child, the woman wishes to work, she can receive some allowances as well as her salary.
47. Women’s return to the home is not the result of economic recession, however. Other factors are involved: the increasing pace of work and flexible working arrangements (part-time working, non-standard working hours, the relentless pursuit of performance). Such factors, to which women have had to adapt in the employment market, have had no impact on crèche, nursery school or childminders’ hours, or shop opening hours. This time pressure causes serious conflicts, with women’s biological clock often running in direct opposition to their career. The notion of the glass ceiling, which prevents highly qualified women from getting to the top, also has its roots in this dichotomy between motherhood and career.
48. When discussing the issue of parental leave, it is also important to consider the position of the employer, who has to guarantee the individual concerned the same job, or an equivalent job, on their return. Firstly, the employee might announce that they are not coming back after all. Secondly, the firm will have to hire a replacement (who, in turn, will have no job security) and train them, often at considerable expense. What may seem perfectly feasible in the public sector or large private companies, however, can present major problems for small firms: SMEs, craft workers, the professions, shopkeepers, etc. Given that, when a baby is born, a woman will be more likely to ask for leave than a man, managers of small firms will be more inclined to hire a man in the first place so as to avoid having to apply the rules on parental leave. All of which is deeply unfair to women and merely reinforces negative stereotypes as regards traditional male and female roles.
II. Implementing a full-scale family policy
A. Developing and improving the system of parental leave
49. In order to enhance women’s professional insertion, one suggested solution is to introduce longer, better paid parental leave. Some adjustment in social protection would also be required, so that parents retained their entitlement to cover during when that they were on leave. The duration and amount of parental leave allowances vary considerably from one state to another. The fact that some countries offer extended periods of highly paid leave shows that it is essentially a matter of priority, not feasibility.
50. Parental leave that is too short and/or badly paid serves to perpetuate a situation where parents are forced to choose between work and looking after their children.
51. There is another school of thought which holds that, rather than encouraging extended (3-year) leave among a small number of beneficiaries, parental leave ought to be shortened to one year. Returning to work is generally easier after only a year’s break. Shortening parental leave would also mean that it could be offered to a greater number of beneficiaries, or even from the birth of the first child, which is not the case at present in all member countries of the Council of Europe.
52. Another possibility worth exploring is half-time parental leave. Under this arrangement, the family benefit payable for half-time leave would be increased, so that if one of the parents switched to half-time working following the birth of a child, they would not lose any income if they were earning the minimum wage. This system would be particularly beneficial for people in low-skilled jobs.
53. After the parental leave period has ended, individuals should have the option of returning to their old job on a full-time basis or on a half-time basis (as already happens in Germany), or of undergoing training to enable them to pursue a new career.
B. Redefining working time for the sake of a better work/family balance
54. The system of parental leave cannot function properly or be improved without some adjustment in working hours. The schedules currently imposed on both men and women are clearly not designed to accommodate children: how can parents be at the school to pick up their children at 4 pm if they are expected to work until 7 pm? Part-time working or flexible working hours might be the answer, provided they do not push women back into the home. In many countries, part-time working is a necessity rather than a choice, and tends to be concentrated in insecure jobs that are not necessarily compatible with family schedules.
55. In Finland, there is no such thing as half measures when it comes to paid work. Only 10% of working women are employed part-time. Finnish women tend to shun part-time work for fear of becoming dependent on men.
56. In the Slovak Republic, part-time working is enshrined in the Labour Code. Part-time employees can choose their starting times within the framework laid down by the employer. Some hours are compulsory and there are three kinds of part-time working: daily, weekly and monthly. Many employers will, if asked, conclude part-time contracts with women, or customise work schedules to fit the needs of pregnant women and mothers with children under the age of 15.
57. In Norway, part-time workers account for a high proportion of the female labour force: 46%. Flexibility is the main reason for this, because women still perform the bulk of household chores. The option of working flexible hours is thus a very important factor in women’s participation in the workforce, as otherwise most women would stay at home. Part-time workers have the same rights as full-time workers, and do not forfeit any of their rights by taking parental leave. The fact, however, that a large number of women work part-time means that, overall, women earn less than men and run the risk of becoming financially dependent.
58. The Scandinavians believe that granting women a formal right to gainful employment is not enough in itself to secure equality of opportunity for women and men. So that women can actually exercise this right, the public sector has taken over many of the duties traditionally performed by women, hence the extensive network of social and public services. In Finland, pre-school childcare is an individual right. Virtually all children of pre-school age receive some form of government support (maternity and parents’ allowance, services of a childminder or nursery). Danish women, meanwhile, are demanding that, like schools and universities, creches should be free on the grounds that this is essential to a healthy work/family balance.
59. In Turkey, there are plans to force employers to provide crèches at workplaces where there are more than 100 employees.
60. In some countries, there is a serious shortage of creches and childminders. The main reason given by governments is lack of premises and equipment, not to mention the high cost. Some mothers have come up with a solution: just as, when a new building is erected, the law calls for the provision for a certain number of parking places, employers could also be required to offer a certain number of creche places, or even provide an area inside the building itself.
61. There is a need, then, for governments to focus on childcare facilities and introduce flexible working hours for all.
C. Mainstreaming in social and employment policies
62. Employment policy, social policy and childcare are inextricably linked and influence the position of women in society. The economic aspects of employment cannot be divorced from society’s responsibilities in the field of childcare and social welfare, if the interests of women and the promotion of gender equality are to feature among the guiding principles of Council of Europe member states.
63. Concern for women’s capacity to work and to juggle family and career goes hand in hand with social security reform. Too many women are employed in insecure, badly paid jobs which very often do not entitle them to adequate social protection in the form, for example, of parental leave or unemployment benefit.
64. Portugal has taken the unusual step of regulating housework and treating it as a waged activity, the thinking being that domestic responsibilities and the work they entail can be factored into the national economy, since they create value. Governments pay for children to be looked after in crèches, for example, so why not reward non-working mothers for performing this task at home?
65. In Austria, a campaign was launched in 1996 by the Ministry responsible for women’s rights to encourage a fairer division of household chores and to highlight the relationship between this problem and the marginalisation of women in the labour market. The campaign was also aimed at encouraging men to assume more responsibilities as husbands and fathers.
66. There are wide disparities between Council of Europe member States as regards parental leave, disparities that have to do not only with each country’s traditions, but also with the degree of political commitment to implementing proper, coherent measures. Legislation alone is not enough: steps must be taken to ensure that the law is implemented as effectively as possible. There is little point in offering several months’ parental leave if no effort is then made to support women during this period and to encourage take-up by fathers. If anything, indeed, such an approach is liable to rebound on women and exacerbate inequalities. Finally, is it really worth striving to introduce a “Scandinavian” model in countries that do not have a Scandinavian mentality? Parental leave is an excellent arrangement which caters for families and women’s right to have a fulfilling career. On no account must we allow it to become a covert means of forcing women back into the home and confining them to so-called traditional roles.
67. Governments and parliaments in Council of Europe member states must be encouraged, therefore, to focus on:
- introducing paid parental leave by way of a general rule, including adoption leave;
- creating proper facilities to enable fathers and mothers to take parental leave, including adoption leave;
- encouraging an equitable division of parental leave;
- passing laws and adopting measures to encourage the sharing of parental responsibilities, particularly through part-time working and flexible working time;
- adopting measures to make it easier for parents to resume work after taking parental leave, by allowing them, for example, to work part-time while on leave, or undergo training;
- encouraging society to recognise the benefits of greater male involvement in parenting, including benefits for the workplace;
- making trade unions, employers and social partners aware of the need to provide help with childcare;
- encouraging large firms and government departments to set up on-site crèches;
- investigating possibilities of home-based jobs.
Reporting committee: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Reference to committee: Doc 8543, reference N° 2443 of 4 November1999
Draft resolution unanimously adopted by the committee on 22 October 2001.
Members of the committee: Mrs Err (Chairperson), Mrs Aguiar (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Keltosova (3rd Vice-Chairperson), Ms Anastassova, Mrs Auken, Mrs Biga-Friganovic, Mrs Castro (Mrs Lopez Gonzalez), Mrs Cryer, Mrs Dromberg, Mrs Druziuk, Ms Faldet, Mrs Freitag (Mr Palis), Mrs Freyberg, Mrs Frimannsdóttir, Mr Gaburro, Mrs Gatterer, Mrs Granlund, Ms Gülek, Ms Hadjiyeva, Mrs Herczog, Mrs Hornikova, Mrs Jones, Mr Juri, Mrs Katseli, Mrs Kestelijn-Sierens, Mr Kiely, Mrs Lakhova, Mrs Laternser, Mrs Mikutiene, Mr Neuwirth, Mr Olteanu (Mrs Cliveti), Mrs Paegle, Mrs Paoletti Tangheroni, Mrs Patarkalishvili, Ms Patereu, Ms Pericleous-Papadopoulos, Mr Popovski, Mr Pullicino Orlando, Mrs Roudy, Mrs Rupprecht, Mr Volodin, Mrs Zafferani, Mrs Zapfl-Helbling, Mrs Zwerver.
N.B. The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.
Secretaries of the committee: Mrs Nollinger, Ms Kostenko