25 January 2019

Thursday’s provisional agreement of the Romanian Presidency of the Council and the European Parliament on a Directive on Work-life Balance for Parents and Carers shows strong political commitment to accelerate the progress towards recognising the needs of informal carers. The Directive addresses the troubling contradiction between the tremendous contribution that carers make to European health systems and the insufficient support they receive in return.

The European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) has been continuously advocating for the recognition of carers:

“We are calling on the European Parliament to safe-guard provisions which will bring better recognition and protection to caregivers, especially those caring for someone living with cancer, Francesco de Lorenzo, President of ECPC said in September 2018 ahead of the inter-institutional negotiations.

The European Cancer Patient Coalition welcomes the advances made yesterday: it is a crucial step towards recognising and protecting carers, whilst improving their quality of life and work-life balance.

The agreement will now need to be ratified by the European Parliament and the Member States.

The sustainability of health systems depends on informal carers, as they provide around 80% of care across Europe. Yet their vital role is often unrecognized and largely unregulated. The Directive offers to establish a robust policy framework to address cancer carers’ rights and needs.

The Work-Life Balance Directive aims to improve the access for working parents and carers to work-life balance arrangements, such as parental or carers leave and flexible working arrangements. The new directive will encourage men and women to take an equal share in family-related responsibilities, including caring for patients.

The new rules should also increase the take-up of family-related leaves and flexible working arrangements by men, thus making it easier for women to stay on the labour market. Parents and carers will be able to better reconcile their professional and private lives, and companies will benefit from more motivated workers. Most importantly, this directive will directly benefit patients themselves.

ECPC published the White Paper On Cancer Carers: Finding the right societal response to give people with cancer and their carers a proper quality of life at an event in the European Parliament in 2017. It addresses cancer carers’ specific  needs with robust policy recommendations to European and national policy-makers, and ECPC is pleased to see some of these recommendations included in the Directive. The recommendations on employment, social, healthcare and educational policies will support caregiving across Europe and will allow a better functioning and sustainable care system and a fairer, more productive economy. Providing carers with choice and support will ultimately result in giving people with cancer and their carers a proper quality of life.