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

AuthorVegter, Marlies
5 Pregnancy, maternity, and leave related to work-life balance for workers
(Directive 92/85, relevant provisions of Directives 2006/54 and 2010/18)94
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 m entions that Dutch citizens
spend on average 21 hours per week on care tasks. Most of this time is spent on cooking,
tidying up, cleani ng, washing an d shopping. Those who have chil dren also spend
considerable time on them, especially if they are youn g. Pa rents wi th child ren under 4
years spend on average 14.5 hours per week on them.95 There are considerable differences
between men and women. In the age category 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 o n care tasks (26 hours), whereas for men the difference b etween
those who have children and those who do not (18.8 hours) i s smaller.
From other research, also by the SCP (2014), it follows that women also spend more time
on care for people other than their own partn er and children. Research done in 2014
mentioned that 58 % of the (informal) caregivers are female, as are 65 % of the volunteers
in the care branch. Most informal care is given by people between 45 and 64 years of age,
especially in regard to care for needy parents.96
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 l eave to care for their children.97 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 i s usually that it 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 201698 discusses work -life balance issues in great detai l
(Chapter 5). Employees indicate that it is important that working hours are in line wi th
family tasks, meaning that they can start and finish work at hours that enable them to
care for their family as well. Flexibility is important in this respect. The opportunity to work
at home, i f necessary, also helps. Fi nancial factors are also important. Less important is
the availability of childcare (apparently t here is enough childcare available) and /or trust
94 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
95 SCP, ‘Zorg voor het huishouden en anderen’ (Care for the household and for others), 21 December 2017.
Available at
96 SCP (2015), Informele hulp: wie doet er wat? Omvang, aard en kenmerken van mantelzorg en
vrijwilligerswerk in de zorg en ondersteuning in 2014, p. 9-11 and 56. Accessible via:
97 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
98 SCP (2016), Emancipatiemonitor 2016, 13 December 2016. Available at
in childcare institutions. However, the SCP al so notes that there is an increase in the
number of mothers who are of the opinion that mothers are more suited to taking care of
children than fathers. This is a trend whi ch goes in the opposite direction to the
emancipation of women.
Leonie van B reeschoten undertook sociological research. She published a Ph.D. thesis i n
April 2019 entitled Combining a Career and Childcare, The Use and Usefulness of Work -
Family Policies in European Organizations.99 Van Breeschoten concludes, 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 n ormal within an organisation or n ot. Another conclusion is that men
especially take parental leave if they have a manager who also does this and/or if they
work within an organisation with relatively many women empl oyees.
The reports do not speci fically refer to difficulties experienced during pregnancy and/or
maternity leave. Difficulties are usually not so much experienced during a period of leave,
but more particularly du ring times when work must be combined with family tasks. The
difficulties experienced mainly have to do wi th the adjustment of working hours to family
tasks and vice versa, e.g. having to leave early from work in order to pick up a child from
child care or not being able to go to work because a child’s school has a staff study day or
because of a sick child.
In this respect the position of self-employed women is interesting. Women sometimes
choose to become self-employed so as to have more f reedom in planning their working
hours. They also experience this aspect as positive, but the d ownside is that sometimes
little time remains for the women themselves, e.g. because during the d ay chil dren or
other family members ask f or attention, whereas in the evening remaining work must be
done.100 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 Regus , a broker i n 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 2030.101 The survey also mentions that people with
flexible work arrangements are twice as li kely 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 empl oyer
in this area.102 There are, in short, different findings i n this area, probably dependent on
the type of questions asked and maybe al so on the background of those commissioning
the research.103
99 Van Breeschoten, L. (2019), Combining a Career and Childcare, The Use and Usefulness of Work-Family
Policies in European Organizations, Utrecht 2019. Available at
100 Annink, A. and den Dunk, L. (2014) ‘De positie van vrouwelijke zzp’ers in Nederland’, Atria, § 4.5.
101 Regus, Flexible Working, Solid Facts, a summary review of the socio-economic benefits of flexible working
in 16 countries, July 2018. Available at.
102 Werktrends (2017), ‘Anders werken: wat vindt werkend Nederland?’, 2016. Available at
103 Regus, for example, offers ‘solutions’ for flexible working (workspaces and the like).

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