Comparative study of family care leave policies and legislation


Michael Fuchs


Andrea E. Schmidt


Ricardo Rodrigues


Combining paid work and caring duties for older family members, sick children, or disabled relatives is becoming a challenge for many people of working age, especially women, with the share of employees with caring commitments likely to continue to rise in the future.


To carry out a thorough comparative analysis of care leave schemes for working carers of sick and disabled children or parents in selected countries in Europe, with an emphasis on conditions for take-up and gender dimensions. The study also aimed to identify trade-offs (e.g. costs vs degree of social protection) associated with different care leave models for policy-makers.


Analysis of legal documents and secondary data sources (e.g. studies and statistics) for care leave schemes in Austria, Germany, Canada, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

Expert interviews with policy-makers and academic experts.


The study regarded the importance of contextual factors related to a country's welfare states tradition ("care regime"), including public health and social care services, as well as the country's labour market situation, particularly of women. In the study, seven key objectives for policy-makers were defined, which need to be considered when designing care leaves (e.g. labour market attachment of caregivers, financial and social security). In the first part of the study, the in-depth analysis of the selected countries highlights the trade-offs for public policy-makers involved in different kinds of care leave legislations and regulations, based on the key objectives. This part was mainly carried out via desk research, and involved a thorough review of administrative documents, grey and academic literature.

Secondly, the project also aimed to shed light on the actual implementation of care leave models, with a focus on a set of output indicators (e.g. take-up rates, average costs, and average duration of leaves) and outcomes (e.g. employment situation of caregivers). For this purpose, a number of expert interviews were held in the selected countries to validate the information collected during desk research, fill any gaps in knowledge, and gain additional insights into the successes and challenges associated with the implementation of specific policies.


Finally, the results were synthesized in a cross-country analysis, identifying commonalities and differences across countries, and comparing pros and cons of different types of regulations on care leaves. A conceptual framework of (typical) care leave models was finalised at this stage, and specific recommendations for the Swiss policy context were provided.


Swiss Federal Office of Public Health


11/2015 – 05/2016