March 2, 2021

ideas to reconcile during (and after) the pandemic

A working day of 35 hours per week or even 25 hours. Flexible hours. Paid care leave until schools open. Reductions in working hours without reducing wages. Aid to hire domestic workers. Propose a state care system in the future. These are some of the ideas that feminism, the economy, unions or companies are launching these days to solve the conflict that the coronavirus crisis has exposed more than ever: how to care for and work without sacrificing (precarious) equality nor the life projects of women.

Coronavirus maternity and paternity leave. The economist Lídia Farré, who, together with Libertad González, carries out one of the ongoing investigations on the effects of the crisis on the gender gap, proposes paid leave of six weeks per parent until schools open in September. The design would be similar to that of the new birth permits, although of shorter duration: twelve weeks to be divided equally between mother and father. It would be a non-transferable permit, so if a parent does not take their six weeks, they will be lost.

Farré explains that this design seeks the equitable sharing of care and avoid women taking the majority of the leave. Single-parent families would add up to twelve weeks. Is it acceptable for companies taking into account that during these months there are also vacations? “If the schools are still closed and you can’t outsource childcare, I don’t see too many alternatives,” says Farré. UGT also speaks of paid family care leave, individual and non-transferable, “to avoid temporary abandonment of employment or involuntary resignation from a promotion.”

Four-day days. The businesswoman María Álvarez has launched 4suma, a platform for companies and workers to boost the workday four days “to reconcile, alleviate public services such as transportation, and reduce the risk of transmission” of the disease. 4suma proposes to reduce working hours without reducing wages: either with 35-hour working days or with reductions of 20% of total working time, which in practice would be equivalent to four working days per week “always maintaining wages”. The platform asks that schools also adopt this conference to synchronize teachers and students, and that administrations approve incentives.

A document prepared by a working group on Care and COVID-19, made up of feminist activists and economists, some linked to United We Can, proposes a progressive reduction of the workday in phases, which evolves from 37.5-40 hours until 20-25 hours without salary reduction.

Adaptation of the day. It is a right already recognized: it was initially approved by the first Sánchez government and it was also reinforced in the first measures that the coalition Executive took after the state of alarm: the right to adapt the day to adapt it to the needs of conciliation. It is a right to request adaptation, but it does not oblige the company to always grant it. CCOO asks to reinforce it with subsidies to companies that demonstrate “in a reliable way” that they have facilitated the adaptations of the working hours of their staff. It will not apply if a worker has had to go to court to obtain the adaptation. The Club de las Malasmadres proposes that the right to adapt the working day is mandatory for companies.

Reductions in working hours paid by administrations. It is another of the ideas expressed by the Workers’ Commissions in their document on proposals for conciliation and support for families. Would financial aid for people who have to reduce their workday by more than 30% or who have to take a temporary leave of absence to care. The amount of these grants would take into account the income level of the beneficiaries: with salaries of less than 27,537 euros, the grants would be higher.

In the case of total working hours or reductions, the aid would be 548 euros per month for people with wages below 27,537 euros, while for those above this limit it would be 438 euros per month. Aid would be more substantial for single-parent homes, large families or those where there is a victim of gender violence. And those who distribute the absences equally among the members of a couple would receive a bonus.

Walk towards an integrated care system. It would include a universal and free system of education 0-3 years with flexible hours and a system to promote autonomy and care for situations of dependency, among other policies. It would be accompanied by an employment plan that would supply these two branches with professionals and that would allow quality care. For starters, ehe document of the Working Group on Cares and COVID-19 proposes a program to promote the employment of care for people that creates 300,000 jobs to restructure care in nursing homes, home care, child care and care for all degrees of dependency.

Telecommuting: All the proposals agree that teleworking should continue to be preferred, although it cannot be the only formula that seeks to combine care and employment. Malasmadres even speaks of teleworking “by legal imperative” beyond the state of alarm and if the activity had been carried out normally. Economist Lídia Farré believes that teleworking must be compatible with flexible hours and prioritize people who have childcare or dependents.

Open schools with turns. Is the proposal from the sociologist Teresa Jurado: “It could be two school shifts, one on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. “It would imply the hiring of more teachers and a system of preferences depending on the work of the parents. And it would have to be accompanied from a reduction of the working day to 35 hours that would allow mothers and fathers to concentrate their days and be free to attend to their children the days they were at home attending their classes online. Children from single-parent families would be exempt from shifts and could attend to school every day Another possible measure to reinforce this system, explains Jurado, is to create a paid leave of one day a week to attend to the children and which would be paid by the State.

Incentives for domestic employment, but also more rights. Malasmadres also talks about approving a financial incentive for families to hire caregivers. The sociologist Teresa Jurado believes that, in any case, that incentive should depend on family income. The document of the feminist work group on Care and COVID-19 talks about equating the rights of domestic workers (right to unemployment, eliminating dismissal due to dismissal, etc.) with that of other workers with a crash plan that includes measures to remove the sector from informality: incentives for Social Security affiliation and unconditional regularization of all domestic workers in an irregular administrative situation.

Law of care and sustainability of life. Beyond the short term, the feminist document proposes a network of policies and initiatives to change the current structure of care or, rather, to create a solid structure and modify the way it is currently conceived. An observatory of care, an incubator that guarantees financial resources and research on time allocations, an incubator of “with-care” policies, a Law on care and sustainability of life that, among other things, favors the creation of companies municipal care, or include a time-use standard to operate on the distribution of “vital times, working hours, parenting and care time and city time”.


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