Thursday 2. December 2021


Event report

Fourth meeting of the European Interest Group on WORK-LIFE BALANCE


29 June 2016 – Innovation and creativity are the driving forces that ensure the competitiveness of Europe’s economy, but which conditions help to flourish creativity? At its 4th Interest Group meeting in the EU Parliament, the European Sunday Alliance (ESA) discussed together with MEPs about the close relationship between recreation time and innovation. Under the patronage of the MEPs Evelyn Regner (S&D) and Thomas Mann (EPP), the event entitled “Competitiveness needs innovation, innovation needs creativity and creativity needs recreations” brought together participants from business, churches, politics, trade unions and family organisations.


After a brief introduction of the subject and the speakers by MEP Evelyn Regner, Martin Wilde underlined in his opening statement that the objective of reasonable working hours is not in conflict with economic competitiveness, but that both are correlated. The General Secretary of the Christian Union of Business Executives, UNIAPAC Europe, explained that recreation unleashes creativity and that hence there is a direct economic reason to limit high working hours.


Sandra Parthie from the Cologne Institute for Economic Research provided the basis for the discussion. Referring to data from Eurostat and the European Working Conditions Survey, she demonstrated in her presentation that innovation is a complex phenomenon driven by far more variables than working time and that there is just scant empirical evidence on work-overload in the EU member states. The share of employees working more than 45 hours per week is, in contrast, rather small and a large majority of people are satisfied with the balance between their private and professional life. She, however, admitted that the surveys need to be updated as most of the data have been collected in 2010.


Drawing from his insights from Hungary, József Tóth, however, called into question the extent to which the official figures capture the reality in his home country. The CEO of T. Szinfolt Ltd., a family-run business in home decoration, criticised the fact, for instance, that the figures do not include people working in the grey market. There needs to be more responsible business holders who protect their employees from excessive working hours, especially in the retail sector in Hungary where Sunday work and late evening shifts are part of the normal working time. Mr. Tóth therefore regrets that the Hungarian government in April repealed its law on Sunday shopping restriction.


The last speaker, Christina Colclough, looked more closely on the notion of innovation. According to the Head of EU affairs at UNI Europa, innovation is not a product, but a process that guarantees Europe’s sustainable future. Highlighting findings from her own PhD thesis, she identified network, trust, and enthusiasm as the three underpinning factors that provide the fertile ground for innovation. Seeing that digitalisation and individualisation of work lead nowadays rather to a culture of competition than to networking and creativity, she doubts about Europe’s future innovation capacity.


In the following roundtable discussion, the participants agreed that there is an urgent need to improve the quality and timeliness of social statistics in order to draw more valid conclusions on working time. Qualitative analysis, in particular, could provide more evidence on how long EU-citizens actually work. Furthermore, a breakdown of the data among education levels, age groups, and employment forms is needed. The Interest Group stressed that synchronised free time cannot be assessed in terms of money, but needs to be protected to promote workers’ well-being and to create an enabling environment for creativity and innovation in Europe.

The discussion closed with a brief presentation on the work programme of the upcoming Slovak EU Council Presidency on social affairs. Xénia Malá, policy officer at the Slovak Permanent Representation, outlined that her government will closely follow the issue of work-life balance and organise a two-day conference on 21-22 September in Bratislava on “Reconciling Work and Family Life in a Changing Society”. Moreover, she stressed that Ministers for Employment and Social policy will address the impact of digitalisation on work at their informal meeting on 14-15 July.


In his conclusion, MEP Thomas Mann indicated further steps for the Interest Group. Referring to the achievements of the European Sunday Alliance, he stressed the need to strengthen the cooperation with the European Commission to ensure that the issue of work-life balance is properly addressed in the long-awaited proposal on revision of the Working Time Directive and further initiatives in EU social policy.


The Interest Group continues to follow the issue of work-life balance and will organise a conference in the European Parliament in Brussels on 15 November 2016. In two panels, speakers from academia and EU-institutions will discuss with representatives of the ESA member organisations the impact of digitalisation on work-life balance.


Register for meeting of EP Interest Group on Work-Life Balance

Innovate! Create! The key role of work-life-balance for Europe’s sustainable future


Third meeting - European Interest Group WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Thursday, 10 December 2015

EP Interest Group on Work-Life Balance Meets:

Healthy work places in Europe, keys to preventing psychosocial risks


unknownTackling the rise in psychosocial diseases by ensuring a fair work-life balance, proper rest and a common work-free day must be a key element of the EU Strategic Framework on health and safety. That was the theme for the third meeting of European Sunday Alliance Interest Group on Work-Life balance that took place on 10 December under the patronage of Ms Evelyn Regner MEP (S&D) and Mr Thomas Mann MEP (EPP).


The theme was prompted by a 2015 European Parliament report indicating that work-related stress and psychosocial risks are responsible for almost half the number of working days lost each year. The report notes a proposal from the European Commission for an “EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work”. Host MEPs also named the intrusion of smart phones and social media, and ‘around-the-clock’ availability as growing problems for workers in Europe.


Laila Castaldo, UNI Europa and on behalf of the European Sunday Alliance, welcomed the initiative taken in the report and criticised the Commission’s attempt to classify the much needed health and safety standards as “needless and burdensome red tape”. Working in a healthy and safe environment is a fundamental human right, she argued.


Those gathered enjoyed a presentation from Brenda O’Brien from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), who discussed the implementation of the Strategic Framework, especially regarding psychosocial risks including stress, depression, and burnout. O’Brien also noted that absenteeism due to these risks is growing across Europe. They are now the number two reason workers are absent for more than three days. Recent data suggests that long working hours, an unbalanced relationship of work and outside life, precarious work, and poor work organisation are significant contributing factors. She referred to the outcomes of the EU-OSHA 2014–15 Campaign: Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress.[1]


Herman Fonck of the Christian Confederation of Trade Unions (ACV-CSC), chair of the Governing Board of Eurofound, presented on the importance of decent work in light of increasing psychosocial risks, and challenges emerging from growing pressure for retailers to open on Sundays. He emphasized that the studies about increasing psychosocial risks at work are well-known, but not taken seriously into account by policymakers. In this regard he also argued that the EU work programme 2016 does not give enough attention to health and safety issues. He shared interesting findings of the Eurofound 6th working conditions survey carried out on a sample of 35 765 interviews in EU 28. According to the survey over the period 2000 to 2015, there was a 32% increase of working on Sunday, 32% of workers worked more than 10 hours a day at least once a month, 45% workers have worked in their free time in order to meet work demands in the last 12 months, and 20% consider their working hours do not fit well or at all with their family or social commitments.[2]


Participants discussed how the Strategic Framework can support research about the relation of psychosocial risks and balancing work, family, and social life. They also were interested in the right to “switch-off”, the emergence of new risks, gender imbalances in unpaid work and care responsibilities, and how to improve the implementation of existing health and safety legislation.


The well-attended event included representation from religious organisations, trade unions, national Sunday Alliances, civil society, and the European Parliament.




Second meeting -European Interest Group WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Monday 1st June 2015

second meeting of the Interest Group WORK-LIFE-BALANCE

hosted by

MEP Thomas Mann (EPP) & MEP Evelyn Regner (S&D)


Acceleration Society – Quality vs quantity towards a better work-life-balance

EU Parliament, Brussels


with Prof Dr Hartmut Rosa, Jena

1st June 2015 - The European Sunday Alliance hosted its 2nd meeting of the Interest Group “Work-Life-Balance”. The German and the Austrian Sunday Alliances, both members of the European Sunday Alliance, under the kind patronage of the Members of the European Parliament Ms. Evelyn Regner and Mr. Thomas Mann, invited Prof. Dr. Hartmut Rosa to give his insights and reflections on the process of acceleration on modern society and its consequences for the work-life-balance in our societies. Around 40 people, members of the European Parliament and representatives of civil society organizations, gathered to discuss the importance of “oases of deceleration”.


The diverse audience – from MEPs from various political groups to representatives of trade unions, employers, family and sports organizations and Churches – had a fruitful exchange with Prof. Dr. Rosa, who explained his demand for a collective synchronized free time that allows for deceleration and leisure instead of  ticking off  one’s to-do list.

“We are running out of time”, stated Prof. Dr. Rosa. Despite all technological advancements which are geared towards saving time we are shifting from the hope of a better work-life-balance to the unspoken idea of a “work-age” balance. Whereas the good life seems to begin with retirement, the chronic mismatch between the perceived workload and the available time-resources during the “rush hour of life” and in addition the fear of losing one`s job creates a spiral, which leads to the feeling of no escapes and no control over one’s own life. Burnout is a symptom of that. A feeling of no escapes and no control over one’s own life. Burnout is a symptom of that. A general social basic income could be a solution, proposed Prof. Rosa, because it would take pressure from employees.

The feeling of being socially excluded and just getting alms would be eliminated by a collective basic income.


That is why we need “oases of deceleration”. Collective time-outs, holidays and a work free Sunday as such oases should be used for reading books, listening to music and playing games instead of buying new ones. Prof. Dr. Rosa emphasized that “time-politics cannot be an isolated instrument” we need to change the political and socio-economic structures – we need a new vision of a post-growth society.


The next meeting of the Interest Group will be in the second half of the year after the summer break.


European Interest Group WORK-LIFE BALANCE

First European Interest Group WORK-LIFE BALANCE launched!


3rd March 2015 – On the very day when the European Day for a Work Free Sunday is celebrated across Europe, at the EU Parliament, and in the presence of MEPs from different political groups, the European Sunday Alliance launched the first European Interest Group on WORK-LIFE BALANCE. For the first time, the interest group  - supported by representatives of politicians, trade unions, business executives, family and sports organisations and representatives of churches and religious communities - brought together 50 people to discuss how to ensure that EU legislation respects and promotes workers' health and promotes a better balance between family and private life and work. Participants shared the consensus, that these objectives do not conflict with the objective of economic competitiveness, in the contrary. Competitiveness needs innovation, innovation needs creativity and creativity needs recreation.


unknownThe event was held under the patronage of MEPs Evelyn Regner (S&D) and Thomas Mann (EPP). Last year, many of the MEPs present signed the European Sunday Alliance pledge.

The issue of work-life balance, decent working hours and synchronised free time for all citizens in Europe is important for many reasons: at a personal level for time together with family and friends, social, cultural or sports activities, at a spiritual one as a day of rest and religious edification and above all to ensure an adequate time of rest.  A lack of work-life balance often leads to absenteeism, psycho-social stress at work and burn-out and it has a clear negative impact on the economic productivity.


The relevance of the topic becomes even more evident as the European Commission refers in its ongoing public consultation on the review of the Working Time Directive to fundamental changes, which have occurred in the world of work and the economy and that impact on many aspects of the organisation of working time. The members of the interest group on work life balance believe that the  current legislation does not sufficiently address the issue of balance between work and private life and does not ensure that workers can enjoy a common weekly day of rest. A thorough reflection and discussion on how to best ensure the protection of EU citizens’ work-life balance is therefore urgently needed.


Interest Group provides the right format and opportunity to bring Members of the European Parliament and representatives from civil society and other organisations together. It will offer a platform a regular and informal exchange of views, knowledge and expertise on the different aspects and actors involved to ensure a better work-life balance for all.


This was the first of a series of events that will address the issue of work-life balance and that will continue for two years from now.


The next meeting of the Interest Group will take place on 1 June 2015. Prof. Rosa from the German Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena will be speaking about the acceleration of time under a sociological perspective.


More information: Secretariat of the European Sunday Alliance


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