Principle 9

Work-life balance

"Parents and people with caring responsibilities have the right to suitable leave, flexible working arrangements and access to care services. Women and men shall have equal access to special leaves of absence to fulfil their caring responsibilities and be encouraged to use them in a balanced way."

- Principle 9 of the European Pillar of Social Rights

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Work-life balance as a determinant of health

When work becomes an overwhelming part of life, it can put additional time and emotional pressure on those with caring responsibilities and become an unmanageable burden. Conflicts between work and family responsibilities may trigger stress, burn-out, maladaptive coping mechanisms, and overall mental health decline.

On the other hand, flexible and gender-sensitive working and leave arrangements with fair compensation promote workers' psychosocial health, productivity and job retention. Work and meaningful employment also plays a significant role in shaping identities, providing for quality of life and social status.

What does the EPSR Action Plan say?

The EPSR Action Plan sets out five key goals for EU Member States:

  • The provision of formal early childhood education and care should be increased to ensure that at least 78% of the population aged 20 to 64 is in employment by 2030.

  • Member States had to transpose the Work-life balance Directive by August 2022.

  • Social partners should explore measures to ensure fair telework conditions and measures to ensure that all workers can effectively enjoy a right to disconnect.

  • Public authorities and social partners should cooperate to protect the rights of mobile workers, including seasonal workers.

  • Member States need to invest in health and care workforce, improving their working conditions and access to training.

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Where are we now?

The Social Scoreboard measures progress on the principles of the EPSR. Linked to the principle of childcare and support to children, the Scoreboard outlines that in the EU:

  • The gender employment gap only decreased by 1 percentage point in the past 10 years (from 11.8 to 10.8).

  • The employment rate % of population aged 20-64 is at 73.1%.

  • The gender gap in part-time employment has decreased by 2.8 percentage points in the past 10 years (from 23.5 to 20.7).

*Latest figures - 2021

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What are public health actors doing?

The following actions taken by public health actors at (sub)national level can support the implementation of this EPSR principle.

Click on a country to learn about initiatives taking place.

EU tools that help implement Principle 9

There are a range of other policies and instruments at the EU level that can help relevant actors in the field, including in public health, to work together to achieve EPSR Principle 9 on work-life balance.

More information about the EU institutions and programmes is available on EuroHealthNet's Health Inequalities Portal.

The European Care Strategy

The European Care Strategy (communication adopted in September 2022) focuses on EU action to provide high quality accessible and affordable care services for children and people in need of long-term care, and to support decent working conditions for care workers.

For long-term care, policy measures include:

  • Developing sustainable long-term care that ensures better and more affordable access to quality services.
  • Ensuring adequate social protection for long-term care needs - investing in care services, the improvement of working conditions in the sector, an alleviation of the burden on informal carers.

Revision of the Barcelona targets on early childhood care and education:

  • Increase participation in affordable, accessible, and quality early childhood education and care, by revising the Barcelona targets.
Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025
Work-life balance Directive for parents and carers
European Parliament resolution on Telework and the Right to Disconnect
Directive on adequate minimum wages in EU

Have your say

Would you like to share promising policies or practices carried out by your public health institute, which support the implementation of this EPSR principle?

Feel free to reach out to our EuroHealthNet colleague Dorota Sienkiewicz via

About EuroHealthNet

Building a healthier future for all by addressing the determinants of health and reducing inequalities.

EuroHealthNet is the Partnership of public health agencies and organisations building a healthier future for all by addressing the determinants of health and reducing inequalities. Our focus is on preventing disease and promoting good health by looking within and beyond the health system.

Structuring our work over a policy, a practice, and a research platform, we focus on exploring and strengthening the links between these areas.

Our approach focuses on integrated concepts to health, reducing health inequality gaps and gradients, working on determinants across the life course, whilst contributing to the sustainability and wellbeing of people and the planet.

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