Regulating working families in the European Union : a history of disjointed strategies

Busby, Nicole and James, Grace (2015) Regulating working families in the European Union : a history of disjointed strategies. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 37 (3). pp. 295-308. ISSN 0964-9069 (

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Families in market economies worldwide have long been confronted with the demands of participating in paid work and providing care for their dependent members. The social, economic and political contexts within which families do so differ from country to country but an increasing number of governments are being asked to engage, or better engage, with this important area of public policy. What seems like a relatively simple goal – to enable families to better balance care-giving and paid employment – has raised several difficulties and dilemmas for policy makers which have been approached in different ways. This paper aims to identify and critique the nature and development of the means by which legal engagement with work-family reconciliation has, historically, been framed in the European Union. In doing so, and with reference to specific cohorts of workers, we demonstrate how disjointed the strategies are in relation to working carers and argue that the EU is unlikely to provide the legal framework necessary to bring about effective change in this fundamentally important area of social policy.