Flexible Work Arrangements Addressed at European Commission Workshop

A recent workshop organized by the European Commission focused on flexible work arrangements, bringing together representatives from the public and private sectors of European Union member states. Workshop participants discussed the current level of flexible work opportunities in the EU and possible ways to increase participation. A Eurobarometer survey of European workers found that nearly half cited flexible work arrangements as their preferred measure for achieving work-life balance. However, only one-third of European companies offer such schemes.

Presentations at the workshop focused on programs used in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany:

  • Belgium: The "Career Break and Time Credit" scheme allows employees to take up to one year's leave from work, or significantly reduce working hours, without breaking an employment contract or endangering social security rights. The leave may be used in order to look after a child or a disabled relative, to study, or to travel.
  • Netherlands: Introduced in 2006, the "life-course savings scheme" allows workers to save, untaxed, 10% of their annual income (with total savings capped at 210% of annual income) to finance a period of unpaid leave in the future, e.g., parental leave, educational leave, sabbaticals, or leave preceding retirement.
  • Germany: A corporate participant discussed its programs allowing teleworking, reduced hours, or adjustment of work schedule to an employee's needs. Other initiatives at this company include offering on-site childcare services and encouraging fathers to take parental leave.

Other issues addressed at the workshop include:

  • The reluctance of some EU companies and workers to utilize flexible work arrangements during an economic downturn.
  • Whether flexible work programs can be sustained purely on employer and employee contributions, or if greater social protections are needed to support them.
  • Regarding teleworking, the importance of ensuring that this does not become "a trap where the workers - mainly women - would be working at home while having at the same time to look after the children and care for the household."

Image credit: Yuri Arcurs

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.