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8 September 2022

Work-care reconciliation policies in elder care: comparing the generosity of long-term care leave schemes in Europe

Johanna Fischer , University of Bremen , Germany


While formal services and cash benefits constitute important cornerstones of care systems, regulatory, employment-related benefits can also play a crucial role in care policies, in particular in supporting informal care giving. Whereas there is a rather recent, but extensive research strand analyzing parental leave policies with respect to childcare, there has been much less research on work-care reconciliation policies aimed at (semi-)informal carers in the field of long-term care (LTC). LTC related leave might be less established and comprehensive than maternity or parental leave schemes in many countries; nevertheless, the last decades have also seen an extension of leave schemes for employees who care for sick or disabled children and/or adults. As existing country-comparisons indicate, the field of LTC leave is highly complex, with schemes differing tremendously, for instance, regarding the duration of leave, payment, and the definition of eligible groups.

This paper sets out to investigate the generosity of extended care leave policies aimed at informal care givers of the elderly in need of long-term care in a comparative perspective. Building on both leave and LTC-related literature, we develop and operationalize a conceptual framework for assessing the generosity of LTC leave policies based on two main dimensions: Benefit scope (e.g. payment level, duration) and inclusiveness (e.g. employment status, relationship with care recipient). In a second step, the framework is employed to compare LTC leave generosity of extended leave schemes (> 1 month) existing in European countries. This empirical analysis is based on existing comparative compilations on the topic such as ESPN Thematic Report Series on work-life balance measures (see Bouget et al. 2016), MISSOC comparative tables on LTC, Yeandle (2017), and Schmidt et al. (2016) as well as country-specific literature. Subsequently, we will investigate the relationship of care leave generosity with two main LTC benefits, that is LTC services and cash-for-care benefits, making a first step towards understanding the role of the "time benefits' in the care policy landscape.

Overall, the article aims to contribute, firstly, to a clearer conceptual understanding of how LTC leave policies can be meaningfully compared and their role within different types of care regimes. Secondly, we strive to provide a systematic overview of long(er) leave schemes in Europe, a region where LTC systems are comparably developed. In doing so, the analysis also offers an initial step towards understanding the variances in the design and introduction of LTC leave schemes.


Bouget, Denis; Spasova, Slavina; Vanhercke, Bart (2016): Work-life balance measures for persons of working age with dependent relatives in Europe. A study of national policies. Brussels: European Commission.

Schmidt, Andrea; Fuchs, Michael; Rodrigues, Ricardo (2016): Vergleichende Studie zu Betreuungsurlauben für Angehörige im internationalen Vergleich: Gesetzgebung und politische Maßnahmen. Endbericht. Vienna: European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research.

Yeandle, Sue with Wilson, Katherine; Starr, Madeleine (2017): Work-care reconciliation policy: Legislation in policy context in eight countries. Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend.

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