Juggling family and work

Leaves from work to care informally for frail or sick family members: An international perspective




Schmidt, A., Fuchs M. & Rodrigues R. (2016). Juggling family and work – Leaves from work to care informally for frail or sick family members – an international perspective. Policy Brief 9/2016. Vienna: European Centre.


In response to a greater need to conciliate care and work for those with sick, disabled or frail family members, some countries in Europe have put regulations in place that allow employees to provide and/or organize care for family members while remaining attached to their workplace.

The objectives of this Policy Brief are twofold. Firstly, it aims to draw some lessons for the design of care leave policies, based on an in-depth analysis and international comparison of 22 different care leave regulations in six different countries. Seven key objectives are defined which may help to develop or improve care leave policies, including labour market attachment of caregivers, their income security, and gender equality between caregivers. In practice, there were often trade-offs between these different objectives when designing care leave schemes.

Secondly, the regulations are evaluated in view of their success, particularly in terms of take-up rate. The findings highlight that, on the one hand, structural factors are crucial in convincing caring employees to take up care leaves: payment, duration, circle of eligible family members, and minimum care needs for which a leave is granted. On the other hand, societal and psychological considerations are found to be at least equally important, including the need to reduce stigma for caregivers at the workplace, and to maintain both complexity and financial risks at a minimum.

Care leave regulations are highly important measures especially at the onset of care needs within the family and as a statutory right, particularly for less privileged groups of employees. In the long run their success in contributing to better being able to cope with care needs in the family crucially depends on the existence of other measures, for example flexible working times and the availability of formal care services.