In an opinion adopted at its plenary session of 5 March 2019, ESC endorsed the European Commission's initiative for a new directive to help parents and carers balance professional and private life. The EC initiative for a new European directive on work-life balance of parents and carers aims to formulate new measures and policies to solve problems arising from unequal women's participation in the labour market, as well as its consequences, such as lower pensions for women, higher risk of poverty, lack of work-life balance.
ESC has repeatedly and consistently stated its positions and recommendations for improving the balance between professional and family commitments as early as 2008. The Opinion on the EC Initiative under discussion contains new proposals for changes in policies and national regulations. The opinion notes that the new directive does not aim to repeal positive regulatory solutions achieved so far in Bulgaria for a better work-life balance.
In its opinion ESC analyses existing policies and measures to ensure work-life balance both in the EU and in Bulgaria. ESC notes that significant progress has been made in the EU and the Member States in the promotion of gender equality through directives, policy programmes, recommendations in the context of the European Semester, as well as national regulations on various types of family-based leave and flexible work patterns . The European Pillar of Social Rights also stimulates the processes of overcoming the differences between men and women in their personal and professional realization. However, ESC notes that women continue to participate less than men in the labour market. The lower participation of women in the labour market is the reason for gender pay gap of 16.3% on average for the EU and for gender gap in the amount of pensions - an average of 40% in the EU. Economic losses due to lower female employment are estimated at EUR 370 billion per annum in the EU, while in Bulgaria it is EUR 151 per annum.
ESC notes that many of the European directives are reflected in our national legislation. The government continues to develop new measures and policies in the field of work-life balance. ESC also notes that in Bulgaria the employment rate for men and women is around 8%, while for the Member States the difference is 11.5% on average. ESC also highlights one of the main factors for lower female employment - underdeveloped public services for children, as well as poorly developed long-term care for the elderly.
In its opinion, ESC proposes a number of concrete measures to improve both the effect of the future new European directive and to have a positive impact on the national level of work-life balance. ESC believes that the new directive should apply not only to workers working under permanent labour contract but also to workers covered by all forms of employment and to all enterprises, irrespective of their size.
ESC proposes to discuss with the social partners the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council to extend the age of children eligible for parental leave from 8 to at least 10 years of age for the child. ESC recommends creating a new provision on variable-time working hours to be used at the request of employees for family reasons.
ESC underlines the importance of increasing the motivation of employers to apply policies for reconciliation of work and family or private life. One of the stimuli for employers is the introduction of tax incentives for those who invest in social infrastructure in the enterprise or the respective settlement. In the Opinion collective bargaining is considered as a good tool for a balanced transposition of the future directive and its use should be encouraged for this purpose.
ESC proposes to the government to organize a public debate on the opportunities and needs of introducing insurance risk for long-term care.