In August 2015, the Commission published a “Roadmap” for the initiative entitled ‘A new start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families’ with a view using it to replace the 2008 Commission proposal to revise the Maternity Leave Directive. The objective for this initiative is to increase the participation of women in the labour market by modernising and adapting the current EU legal and policy framework to today’s labour market to allow for parents with children and/or dependent relatives to better balance family and work life, allow for a greater sharing of care responsibilities between women and men, and to strengthen gender equality in the labour market.
In order to produce as comprehensive and relevant a Roadmap as possible, the Commission launched a consultation process with various stakeholders to gather views on the development and implementation of a range of possible tools at EU-level to support work-life balance. ‘Our policy partner, the Alliance for Maternal Health Equality responded to the consultation, pointing out the need for maternal health to be included. Safe Motherhood Week fully supports its partner in this opinion, for all the reasons outline below.
A Positive Step …
On the whole, the roadmap is a very positive initiative. It clearly recognizes the challenges faced by women in today’s society, and calls for a wide range of measures – both legislative and non-legislative – to improve the situation.
From a legislative perspective there are some points that relate to maternal healthcare, notably points relating to flexible work arrangements, and maternity and paternity leave.
A particularly relevant point is the need to clearly document or benchmark the situation for women today, so that we can measure progress, and determine appropriate action. This is a challenge faced under the umbrella of maternal health too, where the reality is misrepresented as a result of unreliable statistics.
… But Maternal Health is missing.
The roadmap does not explicitly refer to maternal health, yet Issues such as returning to the workplace and flexible working arrangements go hand in hand with the mental and physical wellbeing of the mother, before, during and after pregnancy.
A review of the labour market for women and the various associated policies mentioned in the roadmap needs to be mirrored by a review of Europe’s maternal health infrastructure. They depend on each other, and in fact, society depends on the outcome.
The consultation process for the Roadmap is in full swing and we’ll be keeping an eye on progress.
Alliance for Maternal Health Opinion: http://maternalhealthalliance.eu/policy_action
COFACE Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union – Opinion http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c705118bcee1950935668e454&id=faa9367a46