On maternity leave, reconciliation of work and family

The conciliation of the personal life, work and family, form part today of the academic reflection, debate and social dialogue, government intervention and business management, and it is by that interest in the topic that you can not understand, the same, without its complexity, since for several years, is discussed on its content and on its protagonists, on the contexts which favour or make it difficult, there is debate on the feasibility of possible initiatives in the field of reconciliation and the goodness of its effects. Doesn’t seem out of place, therefore, to pause for a moment in the settlement whatever the vision that she has.

This is the first paragraph with the one that opens the presentation of the Guide of reconciliation of work and family life (also in PDF) of the andalusian Federation of self-employed. By following this guide, the concept work-family balance has been understood in many different ways:

  • Reconciliation, “in the strict sense”, refers to the reconciliation of time dedicated to the family and to work. But in a broad sense, refers to the full development of persons in the scope of work, emotional, family, personal, leisure, study and research, and to have time for yourself. To reconcile, means, therefore, to maintain the balance in the different dimensions of life in order to improve the welfare, health and working capacity of the staff.
  • Reconciliation “in a broad sense”, refers to the set of measures to alleviate the difficulties, the dichotomy between the working life, and the personal and family life presents. It is a topic that is not exhausted in the care of children, elderly, sick or with disability, because the person conducts his life in various ways and not only in family. The settlement makes reference to the possibility of managing one’s own time, (as is the case of the self-employed), and the worker. Hence, to talk of reconciling face to a problem not only of quantity of time, but also the way of distributing the time.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs and self-employed, you can see the reconciliation as something foreign to your company and think that the work-life balance, personal and family is a private matter of their workers and that, in the case of mixing the familiar and personal with the ground work the real unique thing for the company is that they would be a cost. This thinking is very widespread, since the reconciliation, the wrong way, directly relates to issues such as absenteeism, drop-out, the waiver jobs….

The objectives, to reconcile the life of workers, is directly related to a higher productivity, because, as is well known, the productivity of the worker can be affected by multiple variables, among which are those related to the quality of life of the worker, the effort and dedication to the company.

In this sense, the effect of reconciliation policies on the productivity of the company derives, at least in part, from the fact that it reduces the rotation, replacement, and reinstatement. So, the more specific the qualification, training and experience, the greater the cost will be for the company that workers are absent from work to attend to their family needs, or even to renounce their employment in order to devote himself to such tasks.

At present and due to the profound social changes of the last decades becomes absolutely necessary that companies develop new ways of doing with the aim of achieving the necessary balance between the responsibilities of family, personal and work of the people who work in them. To this end, and on the basis of constitutional principles and, above all, the principle of equality, has been developed in the last years several regulations for the conciliation between work, family and personal.

The legal framework

In the European Union, from the Treaty of Amsterdam on 1 may 1999, equality between men and women and the elimination of inequalities are objectives that should be integrated in all policies and actions of the European Union and its members. On the conciliation of personal life and family, there are several eu regulations that insist on the need for both the European Commission and the member states to adopt measures aimed at the adoption of a paternity leave specific measures that favour a balanced distribution between men and women in the care of sons and daughters and other dependent persons, and also the promotion of regular information and awareness campaigns to elicit changes of structures and attitudes indispensable for a balanced participation between men and women in the sphere of work and family. Directives 92/85/EEC, of 19 October, in relation to motherhood from the point of view of the health and safety at work of pregnant workers or breastfeeding, and Directive 96/34/EEC of 3 June on the framework Agreement on parental leave, are examples of this concern for equality and the work-life balance, personal and family.

In Spain the key regulatory developments to the equality and reconciliation of work and family life are:

  • Law 39/1999, of 5 November, to promote the reconciliation of work and family life of the working people (LCVFL)
  • Organic law 3/2007, of 22 march, for effective equality of women and men (LOI)
  • Strategic Plan of Equality of Opportunities (2008-2011)

These laws, are not understood in a legal body only, or in a regulation with a character of understanding of all realities members in the settlement, but is to establish addictions to what has already been collected in the Workers ‘ Statute and the General Law on Social Security, basically, there are measures on the permission of maternity, paternity, sabbaticals, vacations, and permissions, being of obligatory nature for companies.

Main assumptions and rights in relation to reconciliation of work and family in the Spanish legal framework

According to Raquel Aguilera (2011) many years ago that has been insisting on the need to end discrimination on grounds of sex in access to and continuity of employment. The first legal reforms were directed towards the equality of opportunities between both sexes, but were not taken into account the different roles women and men assume within the family. “Well, it is actually observed that, in parallel to the incorporation of women into the working world there has been an increase in the number of women who are dedicated to simultaneously work within and outside the family home, which gives rise to a “double day of work”. Family responsibilities and, in particular, motherhood, conflict with the integration and continuity of women in the workplace. In order to end up with this situation, in recent years there have been creating measures to reconcile work and family life.

Nothing measures geared towards equal opportunities at work for both sexes, if you don’t take steps to achieve, on the one hand, a more fair distribution between women and men in their family responsibilities and, on the other, to make compatible the work with the care of the family. It is not that the public authorities determine the forms of family life, but that end any difficulty that precludes the existence of the possibilities of choice within the private sphere of the families. Therefore, “the legislature must lay the foundations for the rebalancing in the distribution of responsibilities can be effective and so that you can match the work time and the time of attention to the family.”

This approach in the treatment of the reconciliation of work and family life can be seen for the first time in the publication of the Directive 96/34/EEC, of the Council, of 3 June on the framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC, this Directive represents the transit of a “mere labour policy and social protection to a family policy”((M. RODRÍGUEZ-PIÑERO: “The reconciliation of work and family life of the working people (I)”, Industrial relations, 1999-II, page 30.)), that had its reflection at the national level with the publication of the LCVFL. With this law set up “a new framework of support for the families and for the first time offered a comprehensive and integrated approach to the reconciliation of work and family life”.

The LOI is also transcendental-as we said Raquel Aguilera – in so that “policies of reconciliation of work and family life are clearly associated with the principle of equality”. The LOI aims to bring together the different measures or legal concepts that allow workers to reconcile work with care of their family interests in the term “rights of conciliation of the personal life, family and work”. As established in the art. 44.1 LOI, “the rights of conciliation of the personal life, family and work are recognized to the workers and the workers in a manner that encourages the assumption of balanced family responsibilities, avoiding any discrimination based on their exercise.” It is insisted, therefore, on the need that such rights promote a greater “co-responsibility” between women and men in the assumption of family obligations and that its exercise does not involve any kind of discrimination for workers (Aguilera, 2011).

In terms of the strategic Plan of Equality of Opportunities (2008-2011), is structured around twelve main points:

    1. the political and social participation
    2. the economic participation
    3. stewardship
    4. education
    5. innovation
    6. the knowledge
    7. health
    8. the image
    9. the attention to diversity and social inclusion
    10. gender-based violence
    11. the foreign policy and cooperation
    12. the protection of the right to equality

On the other hand, and more recently, the Labour Reform of 2012, Royal Decree-law 3/2012, of 10 February, of urgent measures for the reform of the labour market, proposes some amendments with respect to the reconciliation of work and family life, between them, to facilitate the conciliation of the workers with children or disabled people in their charge. However, there have been only small changes in the Workers ‘ Statute referred to the breastfeeding leave, reduction of working hours and the holidays not enjoyed by motherhood (Lopez, 2012).

The changes to note are the following:

  • On the breastfeeding leave: in the event of the birth of a child, adoption or foster care, for breastfeeding of the child until he complied nine months, the workers shall be entitled to one hour of absence from work, which may be divided into two fractions.
  • Changes the term workers for workers, this means that before the breastfeeding leave, recognized to the woman, and can now be ordered and enjoyed either by the mother or by the father if both work. May only be exercised by one of the parents in case both work.
  • With respect to the reduction of working hours: those who for reasons of legal guardianship have their direct care a child of eight years or a person with a physical disability, mental or sensorial, that it does not hold an activity leave, shall be entitled to a reduction of the daily working time, with proportional reduction of wages between, at least, one eighth and a maximum of half the duration of that.
  • From now on the collective agreements may establish criteria on the hours in which you can enjoy the reduction of working hours, apologizing to the worker notified fifteen days in advance in the application of working time reduction in case of force majeure.
  • Are granted 18 months to be able to take the vacations that have not been enjoyed by pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or suspension of the contract.

Up here, the legal framework that has been developed in recent years in Spain in the field of reconciliation of work and family life, equality between women and men, and of the rights of motherhood. However, all these measures that have been adopted in Spain are still far from those enjoyed by other european countries, especially the nordic countries: Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norwegian. Deserves also special attention to the case of Romania, that, with respect to the permissions of maternity and paternity, is far ahead of Spain.

Sobre maternidad, conciliación laboral y familiar

Well it is true that -as it shows us the Fundación iS+D– if we compare the permissions of maternity and paternity of the european countries with the Latin american, in the latter, the situation is more serious, since not only is there a great difference by gender in the policies of each country but, in addition, women workers have a lower average to a minimum of 14 weeks provided for in the Agreement on the Protection of Maternity of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Sobre maternidad, conciliación laboral y familiar

The daily practice

In the previous section we have seen outlined the regulatory developments that have occurred in recent years in Spain to promote the reconciliation of work and family life, equality between women and men, and of the rights of motherhood. But, how it has taken (is taking) this the practice, that is to say, to the real life of the working people, be they women or men?, do you enjoy these rights recognized with total freedom during motherhood and fatherhood?

Sobre maternidad, conciliación laboral y familiar

Last Sunday, 16/12/2012, RTVE premiered in Documents TV faces of motherhood, a documentary that explores intimate stories of mothers and fathers on the experience of motherhood. Experiences that pose questions: what is the maternity leave that source of fullness without loopholes that have told us?, how does it affect the relationship?, and what about the relationship with the work?, why feel anxious and guilty a lot of mothers? And parents, how do they live?

Approaches to sociological on the maternity that offers the documentary, are especially interested in the that is related to the reconciliation of work and family, and that the creators of the documentary devoted a good part of it.

Yolanda Garcia Villaluenga (2012), screenwriter of the documentary, gives us some notes on how to raised this issue in the documentary. At first they thought to incorporate data of european legislation in the field of work and balancing work and family. Had not heard of the model icelandic that forces you to enjoy maternity leave: three months for the mother, three months for the father and three months to the parent on request. With the underlying idea that the father will create a closer connection with your child, if you are not the mother.

Another aspect that they wanted to tell was how they had laid blame to the woman, in Spain, linking the descent of the birth to his incorporation to work outside the home; when the reality was that in Spain, as in other countries in southern europe, female unemployment is very high, while in the north, where the woman does reach higher quotas of employability, have more children. What was there behind those increases in the birth rate in the nordic countries? Government policies of support to the family or to the woman. In the european north, the boy or the girl are considered a right and a duty to the community, while in Spain, it is a social good -that will pay the pensions and keep the country’s culture – and a duty exclusively of the family.

These data would allow the creators of the documentary prove that the policy of the government is not neutral and his involvement in the birth rate influences, in a way, determinant in the decision to have or not to have children. Thought -as it tells Yolanda – find data, and more data, but were backing away slowly because you fell into account that the data are there. We hear on the news, in reports…but what I really found most interesting was what was more simple and yet more complex: “to sit with the mothers and their partners, in the living room of his house, in front of the sofa in which you happen to large and small family discussions and shelling with patience chiaroscuro of motherhood, the deep transformation that generates the arrival of a child in the life of their parents”.

I’ve taken the liberty to extract and attach in this entry the approximately 10 minutes that the documentary dedicated to this subject on motherhood, the reconciliation of work and family. Go ahead that is not my purpose to infringe any intellectual property right or copyright, rather, to spread and expand in a free the knowledge that I consider relevant, in this case, the sociological one.

In the fragment that is attached below you can see the experience told first-hand by mothers and parents on maternity and your support, that doesn’t stop being conflictual, with the work. In addition, we see the interesting story of the Professor of Sociology of the UAM, Gerardo Meil Landwerlin, that from their observations and research describes what is the reality of the people that have to reconcile motherhood with work.

Of course, it is worth seeing the documentary as a whole. You can see in:



Ruben Crespo

December 18, 2012



AGUILERA LEFT, Raquel. (2011). “The rights of conciliation of the personal life, family and work in the Organic Law for the effective equality of women and men” in: the Journal of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, RET: 07-2.211, Extra Number: effective Equality of women and men. Available at: http://www.empleo.gob.es/es/publica/pub_electronicas/destacadas/revista/numeros/ExtraIgualdad07/Est03.pdf

CEAT-Andalucia, Andalusian Federation of Self-employed: a Guide to conciliation of work and family life, developed. With the sponsorship of the CEA, Center of Business Services of Andalusia; and the Andalusia Employment Service of the department of Employment-Junta de Andalucía. Available at: http://www.ceat-andalucia.com/GUIASAUTONOMOS/familiar/

Institute Andalusian of the Woman. (2011). Guide on work-life balance, family and staff. Available at: http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/institutodelamujer/index.php/campanas/conciliacion-de-la-vida-personal-familiar-y-laboral

Foundation iS+D. (2012). “What are the permissions of motherhood and fatherhood in Europe?”. Available at: http://blog.isdfundacion.org/2012/10/18/paternidad-maternidad/

Foundation iS+D. (2012). “What are the permissions of maternity and paternity in Latin America?”. Available at: http://blog.isdfundacion.org/2012/11/22/permisos-maternidad-y-paternidad-en-america/

GARCÍA VILLALUENGA, Yolanda. (2012). “The faces of motherhood.” Report of the documentary Documents TV RTVE. Available at: http://www.rtve.es/television/20121209/documentos-tv-caras-maternidad/582001.shtml

LOPEZ, Marcos. (2012). “The effect of labor reform in the reconciliation of family life”. Available at: http://www.pequesymas.com/noticias/como-afecta-la-reforma-laboral-en-la-conciliacion-de-la-vida-familiar

RTVE. (2012). Documents TV. “The faces of motherhood.” Documentary available at: http://www.rtve.es/television/20121209/documentos-tv-caras-maternidad/582001.shtml

TNrelaciones (www.tnrelaciones.com). “Women: rights for maternicad. Reconciliation of work and family”. Available at: http://www.tnrelaciones.com/conciliacion/

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