Quality of working life
Thematic priority adopted by Eurocadres Executive Committee 11th of February 2016
European professionals and managers are hard at work. As employees we spend a large part of our lives in the work-place. It must not be a place that makes us unhealthy. The work-place instead must be accessible and inclusive – a place where we can develop and where our needs on health and safety, work-life balance, corporate responsibility, can be met while performing our jobs. European professionals and managers can be strong promoters of the prosperity of European business, public sector and other organisations.
Taking up a managerial or professional role means taking up responsibility. The role of professionals and managers is often one representing the employer, be it private, public or civil organisations. At the same time also professionals and managers are staff and have interests as such. This double role can mean challenges. Eurocadres takes up the role on European level to represent professionals and managers as staff.
Psychosocial Health & Work-Life Management
Over half (50–60%) of all lost working days in EU can be attributed to work-related stress. Stress and professional burn-out are reaching epidemic levels in Europe and European policy makers should give more priority to the issue.
Downsizing and continuous restructuring is part of everyday work in European workplaces. Frequent problems include lack of recognition; reward; influence and sense of control; a too burdensome work-load; and bad work organisation and/or culture. Far too often leadership is not clear enough and expectations are not clearly communicated. Training and upskilling is essential to strengthen leadership skills. Managers, having the role of leaders, also need clearly communicated goals on what they are expected to achieve. At the same time, in particular managers can find themselves squeezed between the sometimes conflicting interests of the employer and their own well-being.
The current trend in EU law-making is much influenced by the Better regulation agenda of the European Commission, aiming at reducing burdensome regulation which can stifle growth of particularly SMEs. This agenda should not be taken as a prerequisite to roll back on occupational health and safety protection. In particular, with regards to psychosocial health risks, there is instead a need for better protection. There is a clear business case for good occupational health and safety, including psychosocial health. Stronger legal instruments, with special attention paid to psychosocial health, as well as regulation and standards should be developed.
The European Occupational Safety and Health framework directive should contain direct mentions of psychosocial health risks both in the recitals and the legal text. The requirement to continuously – and particularly when restructuring and reorganising – assess psychosocial health risks should be a clear legal requirement in all member states.
Authorities in charge of monitoring the compliance to health and safety legislation and standards should have a compliance-oriented attitude, in particular towards SMEs. To reduce administrative burdens on SMEs does not mean taking away worker protection. Rather it ensures that there are easily accessible quality tools and instruments that can help fulfilling the legal requirements that, if properly implemented and complied with, can contribute to a positive development at the work-place through employees’ well-being.
The EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020 contains very few concrete actions. The EU targets regarding working environment must focus on challenges of modern working life in the knowledge-based labour markets and should include legislative initiatives (for example an Ergonomics Directive).
The social partners have an important role to play in improving the situation. The results of the implementation of the framework agreement on work-related stress of 2004 have not been satisfactory. The social partners should address the issue once again.
Gender equality and Diversity in Working Life
Equality, accessibility and inclusion are a matter of human rights. In addition to that, the research evidence is growing that there is also a strong business case for diversity, making it profitable to invest in improving practice in the workplace. Equal rights and opportunities must be mainstreamed. Managers have a responsibility to combat racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia and other forms of discrimination. On enterprise level, trade union representation and social dialogue on the issues are important and can strengthen the fostering of a good culture.
European women are highly-skilled and an increasing number of women graduate with tertiary education. There are more female graduates than male graduates. However, highly-educated women find it harder to enter the labour market and are in lower-skilled jobs in comparison to men. Long leaves for child and other care, most often taken by women, can hurt pension earnings where social security systems do not include compensation.
Promoting establishment of good child and elderly care systems enables women to take part in the labour market more actively. With regards to child care, actions to meet the Barcelona targets on childcare facilities are needed. The European Quality of Life Survey, carried out by Eurofound, highlights the difficulties childcare users face, putting emphasis on – in order of significance – cost, availability, physical access and quality. Single parents meet special challenges that child care and social security systems must take into account.
Work-Life Management is a gender equality issue. Eurocadres will continue to work on professionals’ and managers’ aspects of the EU initiative on work-life balance for working families. Labour markets with strong gender division leads to gender pay gap also for professionals and managers.
In many Member States the basic right to maternity leave is poor, especially with regards to the length and social security remunerations. The right to parental leave should be strengthened, gender-neutral and the time period prolonged. Developing paternal leave as part of parental leave promotes equal pay and contributes to change in attitudes, especially on gender stereotypes. Extending parental leave rights to fathers should, however, not be done at the cost of reducing women’s, in many countries already poor, rights to leave.
Enabling women to take up managerial roles, as well as executive positions, is a key measure to promote change in attitudes as well as organisational behaviour and culture. Eurocadres supports the Women on Boards directive. A competitive Europe needs to include not just one gender in leading positions in economy.
Digitalisation is changing work as we know it across sectors and becomes both an opportunity and a challenge. Digital skills, that are mentioned in the Commission Strategy for a Digital Single Market, are essential, but effects on employment will be vast. Many professions will lose job positions, whereas new will grow. As a result, many of these new jobs will require a different set of skills. We call for just transition in digitalisation with strong systems to support transitioning from one job to another. As social partners we address the issues through bipartite social dialogue with employers, and also tripartite social dialogue with state actors.
The growing collaborative (sharing) economy can create jobs. The challenge is to address issues in relation to social security and the forms of employment, as well as to make sure that employers take social and employer responsibility. A large part of the work on digital platforms in the collaborative economy is carried out by professionals. It is important that EU addresses the issue, as in the Single Market Strategy, but there is a need to address it on global level too, for example in trade agreements.
We urge trade union organisations throughout Europe to, also in social dialogue with employers, take up the issue of digitalisation in finding the opportunities and addressing the challenges. With an uneven distribution of digital skills there is a clear gender-dimension to digitalisation.
In 2011, the European Commission aimed at putting effective social dialogue at the heart of the “Renewed Strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility”. Professionals and managers are not being sufficiently involved in most concepts of CSR. Nevertheless, professionals and managers are key actors in the whole process of conceptualisation, planning, implementation and evaluation of standards.
Professionals and managers need to be represented and to be able to contribute – from development of CSR policies and strategies to implementation and monitoring. Otherwise they can end up in situations leading up to interest conflicts between personal abilities, convictions and their duties, the companies’ aims and the stakeholders´ demands. An effective social dialogue indeed has to be at the heart of developing and implementing CSR standards.
There is clear evidence that long working hours have negative effect on health, safety, gender equality and work-life balance of the worker. Generally, it has also been shown that decreased yearly working hours have positive impact on productivity (Deloitte, 2010).
The Working Time Directive is a minimum directive which should guarantee at least some level of work force protection in European Union. However, the usage of opt-out has become an instrument for race to the bottom and is by its current form jeopardising one of EU´s fundamental principles; equal competition (fair play) in internal market. Most obvious problems have occurred concerning on-call time and the derogation of professionals & managers. We ask the European Commission to prepare a new proposal for a directive renovation urgently.
There is also a need for certain flexibility. This could be arranged by collective bargaining or by agreements concluded between the two sides of industry. We should remember that if we want flexibility which really works it also needs security. This kind of flexicurity could best be achieved by agreements and legislation based on a genuine social dialogue.
The number one priority for Eurocadres on the Working Time Directive, is to end the groundless derogation of Professional & Managerial Staff (autonomous workers) from the scope of the Directive. Only 19 % of managers and only 7 % of professionals can freely determine their own working hours.