As of April 26, 2023, the work-life balance directive, which aims to increase employees’ work-life balance, is in effect. Although the amendment to the Labor Code, bringing the regulations in line with the EU directive, contains a number of positive changes for parents, it also involves some potential negative consequences that need to be noted.
Need for change
Statistics clearly show that fathers are less likely than mothers to choose to take parental leave.
For example, in 2021, only 1% of men took advantage of it. One might think that the main problem and challenge is stereotypical thinking, according to which the mother should take care of the child and the father should focus on work.
While this is undoubtedly one of the challenges facing society, on the other hand, more and more men are realizing that the lack of work-life balance negatively affects their psychological well-being and relationships with their families.
Also challenging is the dominant perception among employers that fathers do not need or want parental leave, and that their work is more important than their family roles.
All of this can also lead to gender inequality and discrimination.
Are employers the problem?
Parental leave is still often associated exclusively with mothers. In some cases, men are forced to choose between work and childcare because employers do not provide enough flexibility.
The work-life balance directive aims to address these issues, but in practice this can be difficult to achieve. Certainly – as a society and as employers – we need to realize that fathers also need support and flexibility to reconcile their family and work roles.
For employers, making work in an organization more flexible often means:
- additional costs – implementation of the directive may entail high costs for employers. Organizations will have to provide more flexibility, and this could lead to higher costs for training, hiring additional staff or changing standard procedures;
- increased workload on employees – the work-life balance directive requires that employees be allowed to work remotely or take longer parental leave. All of this could lead to a greater burden on employees, who will have to work more to make up for lost hours;
management difficulties – greater flexibility at work also requires greater flexibility in management. Employers will have to adjust their approach to different situations, which can be difficult in practice.
Discrimination against fathers in terms of parental leave is a problem that certainly needs to be addressed immediately.
Organizations need to realize that fathers have the same rights as mothers, and that bringing equality to this issue will benefit both employees and companies.
The work-life balance directive is certainly a step in the right direction, but introducing more flexibility at work requires changes not only in procedures, but also in organizational culture and management methodology.
Proper application of the new regulations can improve employees’ work-life balance, but possible negative consequences should not be underestimated.
Paula Staszak-Urbańska, LL.M., Trainee attorney-at-law PL