Pregnancy, maternity, and leave related to work-life balance for workers (Directive 92/85, relevant provisions of Directives 2006/54, 2010/18 and 2019/1158)

AuthorRenga, Simonetta
5 Pregnancy, maternity, and leave related to work-life balance for workers
(Directive 92/85, relevant provi sions of D irectives 2006/54, 2010/18 and
5.1 General (legal) context
5.1.1 Surveys and reports on the practical difficulties linked to work-life balance
There have been no specific surveys over the last five years that provide insights into
difficulties that workers face in practice in relation to work-life balance issues.
The 2017 OECD Better Life Index states that an imp ortant aspect of work-life balance is
the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may
impair personal health, jeopardise safety and increase stress. In Italy, almost 4 % of
employees work very long hours, although that is less than the OECD average of 13 %.
The more people work, the less time they have to spend on other activities, such as caring
for children and elderly, leisure activities, eating or sleeping. Th e amount and quality of
leisure time is important for people's overall wellbeing and can bring additional physical
and mental health benefits. In Italy, on average, full-time workers devote 62 % of their
day, or 14.9 hours, to personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure (socialising with
friends and family, hobbies, games, computer and television use, etc.), which is slightly
less than the OECD average of 15 hours. The report states that work-life balance can be
improved through free childcare and gives the example of the childcare service provided
by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance: the free care and entertainment service
is aimed at its employees’ children aged 4 to 12 years old; the services are located at the
ministry headquarters and in nearby external sports facilities during summer; it is
operational on weekdays when there is no sch ool; in the morning before starting work,
employees can leave their children in care and collect them at lunch time; if their working
hours involve an afternoon, they can also leave them after lunch and collect them in the
evening; the care activities are managed by qualified childcare staff. This improves
employee work-life bala nce, with 76 % of users valu ing the experience of the service by
their sons and daughters as excellent and 21 % as good. In addition, the work
attendance rate of employees who use the service is higher on average than that of other
employees with children of the same age.42
The ISTAT 2018 report, Well-being equity and sustainability in Italy (BES) shows that in
2017, for every 100 women without children wh o are employed, only 75 .5 % of women
with at least one child under 6 years of age are employed; this rate has decreased in
recent years, meaning that the participation in the labour market of women with child ren
is decreasing.43 According to the 2014 ISTAT report on Daily life, on average, working
women dedicate 5.13 hours a day to household work, while working men spend 1.5 hours
on household tasks. According to the same report, there were positive signs for gender
equality among couples who are parents who both work, where the mother is aged
between 25 and 44 years. Furthermore, in 20 14, for the first time, the asymmetry index
of household w ork fell below the 70:30 split, with 67.3 % of the family work carried out
by womena decline of 5 % compared to 2009 (71.9 %).44
41 See Masselot, A. (2018) Family leave: enforcement of the protection against dismissal and unfavourable
treatment, European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, available at
dismissal-and-unfavourable-treatment-pdf-962-kb and McColgan, Aileen (2015) Measures to address the
challenges of work-life balance in the EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway European
network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, available at
44 and
However, in Italy, the main difficulties are due to a lack of services. The structures and
services useful to workers who have care duties are greatly insufficient and access to them
is also too expensive compared to the average income of workers; all the more so for
women, wh ose income is normally lowe r than that of men. Furthermore, the quality of
public transport is often a problem.
Part-time work, which is not always a solution considering the economic aspect mentioned
above, is neither a worker’s right in the private sector nor available a s a temporary
measure. Moreover, except for the cases where leave (even unpaid) is granted to the
worker, the choice of giving up the job is a har d one, as re-entering the labour market is
not an easy task due to the high unemployment rate.
Traditional stereotypes concerning the roles of parents and the low percentage of women
in highly qualified, well paid jobs and in positions of responsibility does not help, but acts
as a multiplier factor.
The only answer to all this is to change the social stereotypes of the distribution of roles
within the family. This means impr oving leave provisions for men and improving services
and facilities, such as kindergartens. In particular, access to services such as crèches,
school holiday camps and other school activities, mainly depend on the income of the
parent/s and the offer is dramatically insufficient in comparison with the needs of families
(both of employed and self-employed parents).
5.1.2 Other issues
The main problem in Italy is not related to a lack of legislation on the reconciliation of work
and family life or on care leave. Indeed, domestic legislation is in line with the EU directives
and usually exceeds EU legislation. The main issue is the effectiv eness of the legislation:
workers tend to refrain from exercising their rights, as they are afraid of the consequences
from their employer. In particular, employees on fixed-term contracts or in project work
or other types of tempo rary work, are afraid that their contract will not be renewed. This
is especially true for younger generations: the majority of young people, the potential
parents, work in precarious jobs, lacking a secure and constant income as well as the
respective pension and insurance contributions. This deprives them of the choice to
exercise their rights.
Furthermore, it is quite unusual in Italy for fathers to take parental leave. The gender pay
gap and the fact that men are the main breadwinners has a great influence on this. As
parental leave is calculated as a percentage of the worker’s pay, it is more convenient for
families to lose part of the woman’s pay than of the man’s pay, b ecause in general, men
earn much more than women and the percentage of pay lost in the event of parental leave
is mostly higher for men than for women. As a measure to encourage fathers to take
parental leave, the maximum total length of the leave awarded per child was increased
from 10 to 11 months if the father uses at least three months (Article 32
Decree No. 151/2001). Moreover, to reduce the negative effects of parental leave on the
organisation or business, employers can offer fixed-term contracts, by way of exception
starting up to one month before the leave begins (or longer if provided by collective
bargaining), so that the worker taking leave can train his or her replac ement. For small
companies (employing less than 20 workers), a 50 % reduction in contribution is provided
for the recruitment of persons replacing workers on parental leave (Article 4 Decree No.
Another problem is that paternity leave is allowed to fathers only as an alternative to
maternity leave in very special cases: that is, if the mother dies or become s seriously ill,
or in the event of the mother abandoning the child, or if the child is in the exclusive custody
of the father. This limits the rights of fathers and the promotion of a better balance in care
duties as well as reconciliation of work and family life. On the other hand, the special

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