Family caregivers: The new law is supposed to provide relief – but does it?18. October 2022 Published by Raphael Doerr
The Directive of the European Union (EU) on work-life balance for parents and carers was adopted back in 2019. It defines binding standards throughout Europe. It’s intended to relieve the burden on family caregivers, as well as advance gender equality in terms of labor market opportunities and treatment at work. Germany has taken its time implementing it. It was not until June 9, 2022, that the German government presented a draft law to transpose the directive into national law. The EU deadline for implementing it ends in August – and there is criticism from various sides.
Family caregivers: What does the draft law regulate?
In Germany, regulations already exist to make family caregiving easier. In particular, family care leave helps family members reconcile looking after relatives with their job. For up to 24 months, employees are entitled to take partial leave from work to care for a relative.
But to fully implement the EU directive, the German government must do more. This is what the draft law envisages:
- In future, employers – irrespective of the size of the company – will no longer be able to refuse an application for flexible working arrangements during parental leave without good reason.
- Currently, employees in small companies have no legal entitlement to care leave or family care leave. Care leave is available at companies with 16 or more employees, and family care leave at companies with 26 or more. Under the new law, however, employers and employees – even those at smaller companies – are to be able to agree on care leave or family care leave upon application. In addition, according to the draft law, employers must respond to the application within a maximum of four weeks. If they turn it down, objective reasons for doing so must be given.
- According to the draft law, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency will in future be responsible for parents and family caregivers. That is the case if they feel disadvantaged because they assert their rights as parents or carers.
Family caregivers: Criticism of the existing draft
However, there is criticism of the federal government’s proposed legislation. Representatives of the handicraft trades consider the burdens on micro-enterprises to be too high. Employee representatives criticize the fact that the law does not provide for any consequences if a micro-enterprise gives factually incorrect reasons for turning down an application. An obligation to cite objective reasons therefore only helps the carers to a limited extent.
Many family caregivers would also like more support in actually looking after a relative – and not “just” flexible working time models.
Smart home improves the work-life balance
One way to support family helpers is with smart home devices. Gigaset has operated in this product segment since 2012, helping people to enhance safety and convenience in their own four walls. We have developed our own “Smart Care” line of business with the elderly or people in need of assistance in mind, offering senior citizens assistance systems that detect irregularities in the daily routine of someone who needs caring for. Intelligent sensors on windows, doors and in the rooms of the senior’s home deliver the necessary data in a complete anonymous way. In an emergency, the family caregivers then receive a push message via the app or a phone call. Provided their workplace is nearby, employees can then check up on whether everything is fine quickly and easily.
Family caregivers: The home emergency call system is recognized as a care aid
Lawmakers have already taken a first step in the right direction – with the home emergency call system. It is therefore regarded by the German National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds as a care aid subject to certain conditions and its costs are covered by nursing care insurance.
There will be no provisions on smart care products in the new law. What will it look like at the end of the legislative process? We’ll not have much longer to what for the outcome: The deadline for the implementation of the EU directive expires in August!