Lower House intervenes to seek paid care leave
Shortly before the 1999 summer recess, the Lower House of the Dutch parliament amended a government legislative proposal for unpaid care leave, proposing instead a paid arrangement. The proposed 10 days of care leave is aimed at enabling employees to take care of their ill children or other family members. The Lower House want the arrangement to be funded from the existing Unemployment Fund, which is financed by employer and employee contributions.
At the end of June 1999, the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament reformulated the cabinet's legislative proposal for unpaid care leave into a pay-based arrangement. The government's proposed 10-day entitlement to care leave, to enable employees to take care of their ill children or other family members, is one of the provisions in the proposed Work and Care Framework Act (Kaderwet Arbeid en Zorg) (NL9902126N). The entire Lower House, with the exception of the Liberal Party (VVD), shared the opinion that the proposed unpaid leave arrangement did not sufficiently address the needs of employees with care responsibilities, and expressed a wish to implement swiftly a pay-based arrangement.
The Lower House motion also expresses a preference for a specific form of leave financing. A possible source is the Unemployment Fund (Werkloosheidsfonds) to which employers and employees contribute in order to finance payment of unemployment benefits. Another option, although less attractive according to the motion, would be for the collective bargaining parties to establish a joint fund for financing care leave. Given the social partners' divided stance on the implementation of care leave, the latter plan is unlikely to meet with success.
In the light of the Lower House's assessment of the social partners' conflicting opinions (essentially opposition from employers), the motion proposes that the government take the lead in ensuring the continued payment of wages during care leave. The House suggested two approaches - continued payment of wages in full, or payment of 70% of the minimum wage, which amounts to NLG 2,376 gross a month. The Lower House's intervention means that the proposal for care leave has been returned to its original state, as formulated by state secretary Annelies Verstand-Bogaert of the Ministry of Social Affairs in her overall policy document entitled Towards a new balance between work and care (Op weg naar een nieuw evenwicht tussen arbeid en zorg). The offensive launched by employers against paid care leave (NL9903128F), taken up in the cabinet by the VVD, had led to the unpaid version being included in the definitive policy submitted to the Lower House. As it turned out, the VVD was the only party in the Lower House that deemed paid care leave unaffordable.