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

AuthorMarlies Vegter
5 Pregnancy, maternity, and leave related to work-life balance for workers
( Directive 92/85, relevant provisions of Directives 2006/54 and
5.1 General (legal) context
5.1.1 Surveys and reports on the practical difficulties linked to work -life balance
In the Netherlands there is a continuous stream of publications on work-life balance issues.
Most of these are of a popular nature; some are more serious. The paragraphs below
mention several of the more serious ones.
Research by the SCP (S ocial Cultural Plan Bureau) of 2017 mentions that Dutch citizens
spend on average 21 hours per week on care tasks. Most of this time is spent on cooking,
tidying up, cleaning , washing and shopping. Those wh o have children also spend
considerable time on them, especially if they are youn g. Parents with children under 4
years spend on average 14.5 hour s per week on them.105 There are considerabl e
differences between men an d women. In the age categ ory of 20 - to 64-year-old people
with a partner and children, men spend on average 20.5 hours per week on care tasks
(including household tasks) and women 35.8 hours. If there are no children in the
household, women spend much less time on care tasks (26 hours), whereas for men the
difference between those who have children and those who do not (18.8 hours) is smaller.
Other research has been done by the CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics). The CBS
published a report in March 2019 on the fact that there has been hard ly any increase in
the extent to which fathers take leave to care for their children.106 Almost 87 % of fathers
took some sort of leave after the birth of their chi ldren. One in ten fathers with a child
under 8 years took up parental leave. When asked why more fathers did not use this leave,
the reply is usually that i t is too c ostly, or that they are afraid of damaging their career.
The CBS also reported that around 50 % of fathers work at home for one day per week.
The SCP Emancipation Monitor 2018107 mentions that since the previous Emancipation
Monitor of 2016 an increas e can be seen in the nu mber of hours women do paid work.
Most women work part-time. Four out of ten of them indicate that they work pa rt-time
because of caring for children or grandchildren. Most fathers and mothers indicate that
they would like to share the care for their children equally, but in practice this only happens
in one out of eight families. If care tasks are divided unequally, the mother/woman almost
always has a greater share of the tasks. There is a positive trend though in the sense that
the number of men who do their share of housework and care tasks is s lowly increasing.
Leonie van Br eeschoten undertook s ociological research. She published a Ph.D. thesis in
April 2019 entitled Combining a Career and Childcare, The Use and Usefulness of Work -
104 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, A. (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
105 SCP, ‘Zorg voor het huishouden en anderen’ (Care for the household and for others), 21 December 2017.
Available at
106 CBS (2019), ‘Gebruik verlofregelingen vaders vrijwel onveranderd’ (Use of leave by fathers almost
unchanged), 2019. A short video with English subtitles is also available at the website
107 SCP (2018), Emancipatiemonitor 2018, December 2018. Available at
Family Policies in European Organizations.108 Van Breeschoten conclude s, inter alia and
not surprisingly, that for employees, and men in particular, to take up parental leave, it is
essential that this leave is paid. This is more important than whether taking leave is seen
as acceptable and normal within an organisation or not. Another conclusion is that m en
especially take parental leave if they h ave a manager who also do es this and/or if they
work within an organisation with relatively many women employe es.
In this respect the position of self-employed women is interesting. Women sometimes
choose to become self-employed so as to have more freedom in planning t heir working
hours. They also experience this aspect as positive, bu t the downside is that sometimes
little time rema ins fo r the women themselves, e.g. because during the day children or
other family members ask f or attention, whereas in th e evening remaining work must be
done.109 In addition, in the Netherlands self-employed women are not entitled to care
leave, parental leave or other forms of leave, apart from pregnancy leave. It is therefore
hard for them to quit their work for a while. That might mean they lose work, lose clients,
Some surveys focus especially on flexible working arrangements. However, the outcomes
appear to be different. Most surveys are highly positive about flexible working. For
example, research commissioned by R egus, a broker in workspaces, and car ried out by
the Development Economics bureau in July 2018 mentioned that, if flexible work continues
to increase at the current pace in the Netherlands, the country will, after th e US, be the
‘champion’ in flexible working by 2030.110 The survey also mentions that people with
flexible work arrangements are twice as lik ely to be satisfied with their work as people
who work in a more traditional environment. In another report of 2016, however, it is
observed that 35 % of employees would like to have more flexible working arrangements,
but do not feel free to ask f or or to sta rt working in this way because of the culture at
work or social pressure. Only 20 % of employees experience support from their employer
in this area.111 There are, in short, different findings in this area, probably dependent on
the type of questions asked and maybe al so on the background of those commissioning
the research.112
In regard to childcare, the most recent reports find that there is enough childcare available
and that childcare centres are sufficiently flexible. In 2017 , 882 000 children w ent to
formal child care centres, the highest number ever.113 However th e number of children of
parents with a low income who go to child care is diminishing.114 The costs are one reason
for this, but other reasons ar e traditional ideas about caring for children and ab out the
mother as the ideal person to do so. These ideas appear to have b ecome more popular
(again), especially among people with little education and/or immigran t families.
5.1.2 Other issues
In the Netherlands a large number of women work part time. This is the case both for
women with an employment agreement and for self-employed women. According to
108 Van Breeschoten, L. (2019), Combining a Career and Childcare, The Use and Usefulness of Work-Family
Policies in European Organizations, Utrecht 2019. Available at
109 Annink, A. and den Dunk, L. (2014) ‘De positie van vrouwelijke zzp’ers in Nederland’, Atria, § 4.5.
110 Regus, Flexible Working, Solid Facts, a summary review of the socio-economic benefits of flexible working
in 16 countries, July 2018. Available at.
111 Werktrends (2017), ‘Anders werken: wat vindt werkend Nederland?’, 2016. Available at
112 Regus, for example, offers ‘solutions’ for flexible working (workspaces and the like).
113 CBS (2018), ‘Recordaantal kinderen met kinderopvangtoeslag’ (A record number of children with childcare
allowance), 3 July 2018. Available at
114 Roeters, A. and Bucx, F. (2016), Beleidssignalement. Het gebruik van kinderopvang door ouders met lagere
inkomens (Use of childcare by parents with lower incomes). The Hague, SCP.

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