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Interest Group on Work-Life Balance discusses best practices for the future of work

Press Release 4/5/2017

Press Release
4 May 2017
Brussels

 

unknownThe fifth meeting of the Interest Group “Work-Life Balance” took place on 4 May at the European Parliament under the patronage of Ms Evelyn Regner MEP (S&D) and Mr Thomas Mann MEP (EPP). At the well-attended event, Members of the European Parliament, representatives of trade unions, national Sunday Alliances, churches and civil society discussed Digitalisation and the future of work – best practices and legislative challenges for Europe”. Over 55 participants in the Interest Group meeting discussed how to secure positive results from digitalisation and conclusions that can be drawn from these best practices for new working time regulations.

Press Release

Work-Life-Balance 4.0 – Challenges in a time of digitalisation

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2016/11/15 On 15th November 2016 the European Sunday Alliance organized its third European conference this time on “Work-Life-Balance 4.0 – Challenges in a time of digitalisation” at the European Economic and Social Committee. During the day over 100 participants discussed how digitalisation will impact all aspects of our lives and how a healthy work-life-balance can be secured.

 

On this occasion the European Sunday Alliance also launched a Resolution for a better work-life-balance and synchronized free time in the age of digitalisation. The Resolution is aimed at activating civil society and politicians to use the opportunities for a better work-life-balance and to limit the risks created by digitalisation for the benefit of all European citizens. The Resolution is still open for signature.

 

Register for Work-Life-Balance 4.0

Challenges in a Time of Digitalisation

 

Event report

Fourth meeting of the European Interest Group on WORK-LIFE BALANCE

 

29 June 2016 – Innovation and creativity are the driving forces that ensure the competitiveness of Europe’s economy, but which conditions help to flourish creativity? At its 4th Interest Group meeting in the EU Parliament, the European Sunday Alliance (ESA) discussed together with MEPs about the close relationship between recreation time and innovation. Under the patronage of the MEPs Evelyn Regner (S&D) and Thomas Mann (EPP), the event entitled “Competitiveness needs innovation, innovation needs creativity and creativity needs recreations” brought together participants from business, churches, politics, trade unions and family organisations.

 

After a brief introduction of the subject and the speakers by MEP Evelyn Regner, Martin Wilde underlined in his opening statement that the objective of reasonable working hours is not in conflict with economic competitiveness, but that both are correlated. The General Secretary of the Christian Union of Business Executives, UNIAPAC Europe, explained that recreation unleashes creativity and that hence there is a direct economic reason to limit high working hours.

 

Sandra Parthie from the Cologne Institute for Economic Research provided the basis for the discussion. Referring to data from Eurostat and the European Working Conditions Survey, she demonstrated in her presentation that innovation is a complex phenomenon driven by far more variables than working time and that there is just scant empirical evidence on work-overload in the EU member states. The share of employees working more than 45 hours per week is, in contrast, rather small and a large majority of people are satisfied with the balance between their private and professional life. She, however, admitted that the surveys need to be updated as most of the data have been collected in 2010.

 

Drawing from his insights from Hungary, József Tóth, however, called into question the extent to which the official figures capture the reality in his home country. The CEO of T. Szinfolt Ltd., a family-run business in home decoration, criticised the fact, for instance, that the figures do not include people working in the grey market. There needs to be more responsible business holders who protect their employees from excessive working hours, especially in the retail sector in Hungary where Sunday work and late evening shifts are part of the normal working time. Mr. Tóth therefore regrets that the Hungarian government in April repealed its law on Sunday shopping restriction.

 

The last speaker, Christina Colclough, looked more closely on the notion of innovation. According to the Head of EU affairs at UNI Europa, innovation is not a product, but a process that guarantees Europe’s sustainable future. Highlighting findings from her own PhD thesis, she identified network, trust, and enthusiasm as the three underpinning factors that provide the fertile ground for innovation. Seeing that digitalisation and individualisation of work lead nowadays rather to a culture of competition than to networking and creativity, she doubts about Europe’s future innovation capacity.

 

In the following roundtable discussion, the participants agreed that there is an urgent need to improve the quality and timeliness of social statistics in order to draw more valid conclusions on working time. Qualitative analysis, in particular, could provide more evidence on how long EU-citizens actually work. Furthermore, a breakdown of the data among education levels, age groups, and employment forms is needed. The Interest Group stressed that synchronised free time cannot be assessed in terms of money, but needs to be protected to promote workers’ well-being and to create an enabling environment for creativity and innovation in Europe.

The discussion closed with a brief presentation on the work programme of the upcoming Slovak EU Council Presidency on social affairs. Xénia Malá, policy officer at the Slovak Permanent Representation, outlined that her government will closely follow the issue of work-life balance and organise a two-day conference on 21-22 September in Bratislava on “Reconciling Work and Family Life in a Changing Society”. Moreover, she stressed that Ministers for Employment and Social policy will address the impact of digitalisation on work at their informal meeting on 14-15 July.

 

In his conclusion, MEP Thomas Mann indicated further steps for the Interest Group. Referring to the achievements of the European Sunday Alliance, he stressed the need to strengthen the cooperation with the European Commission to ensure that the issue of work-life balance is properly addressed in the long-awaited proposal on revision of the Working Time Directive and further initiatives in EU social policy.

 

The Interest Group continues to follow the issue of work-life balance and will organise a conference in the European Parliament in Brussels on 15 November 2016. In two panels, speakers from academia and EU-institutions will discuss with representatives of the ESA member organisations the impact of digitalisation on work-life balance.

 

Register for meeting of EP Interest Group on Work-Life Balance

Innovate! Create! The key role of work-life-balance for Europe’s sustainable future

 

Third meeting - European Interest Group WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Thursday, 10 December 2015

EP Interest Group on Work-Life Balance Meets:

Healthy work places in Europe, keys to preventing psychosocial risks

 

unknownTackling the rise in psychosocial diseases by ensuring a fair work-life balance, proper rest and a common work-free day must be a key element of the EU Strategic Framework on health and safety. That was the theme for the third meeting of European Sunday Alliance Interest Group on Work-Life balance that took place on 10 December under the patronage of Ms Evelyn Regner MEP (S&D) and Mr Thomas Mann MEP (EPP).

 


The theme was prompted by a 2015 European Parliament report indicating that work-related stress and psychosocial risks are responsible for almost half the number of working days lost each year. The report notes a proposal from the European Commission for an “EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work”. Host MEPs also named the intrusion of smart phones and social media, and ‘around-the-clock’ availability as growing problems for workers in Europe.

 

Laila Castaldo, UNI Europa and on behalf of the European Sunday Alliance, welcomed the initiative taken in the report and criticised the Commission’s attempt to classify the much needed health and safety standards as “needless and burdensome red tape”. Working in a healthy and safe environment is a fundamental human right, she argued.

 

Those gathered enjoyed a presentation from Brenda O’Brien from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), who discussed the implementation of the Strategic Framework, especially regarding psychosocial risks including stress, depression, and burnout. O’Brien also noted that absenteeism due to these risks is growing across Europe. They are now the number two reason workers are absent for more than three days. Recent data suggests that long working hours, an unbalanced relationship of work and outside life, precarious work, and poor work organisation are significant contributing factors. She referred to the outcomes of the EU-OSHA 2014–15 Campaign: Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress.[1]

 

Herman Fonck of the Christian Confederation of Trade Unions (ACV-CSC), chair of the Governing Board of Eurofound, presented on the importance of decent work in light of increasing psychosocial risks, and challenges emerging from growing pressure for retailers to open on Sundays. He emphasized that the studies about increasing psychosocial risks at work are well-known, but not taken seriously into account by policymakers. In this regard he also argued that the EU work programme 2016 does not give enough attention to health and safety issues. He shared interesting findings of the Eurofound 6th working conditions survey carried out on a sample of 35 765 interviews in EU 28. According to the survey over the period 2000 to 2015, there was a 32% increase of working on Sunday, 32% of workers worked more than 10 hours a day at least once a month, 45% workers have worked in their free time in order to meet work demands in the last 12 months, and 20% consider their working hours do not fit well or at all with their family or social commitments.[2]

 

Participants discussed how the Strategic Framework can support research about the relation of psychosocial risks and balancing work, family, and social life. They also were interested in the right to “switch-off”, the emergence of new risks, gender imbalances in unpaid work and care responsibilities, and how to improve the implementation of existing health and safety legislation.

 

The well-attended event included representation from religious organisations, trade unions, national Sunday Alliances, civil society, and the European Parliament.

 

 

 

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