Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Beyond Rhetoric: The European Parliament as a Workplace for Parents and Current Reform Debates

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Abstract:  Doing justice to their families and the political mandate is especially difficult for MEPs. Parents struggle to balance family obligations and work, particularly when the children are young. They undertake extensive journeys between their home constituencies and Brussels or Strasbourg. This taxing routine is further compounded by prolonged working hours, often devoid of leisurely weekends. In combination with the absence of a comprehensive parental leave policy, these challenges disproportionately affect parents of young children, particularly mothers, influencing the diversity and representation within the European Parliament. This study critically examines the existing conditions that shape the working environment of MEPs who are parents. It explores recent endeavors to reform these conditions and the underlying obstacles that hinder the progress of these reformative initiatives. Referring to relevant documents, this study first outlines formal regulations governing parental rights in the European Parliament. We then address informal rules and recent reform proposals using insight from MEP interviews. This examination investigates how parent MEPs assess working conditions and balance competing demands. Despite expectations, the European Parliament falls short of being as family-friendly as anticipated. Nevertheless, recent times have witnessed increased attention to the topic and various reform proposals. The obstacles posed by diverse national legacies and variant conceptions of MEP mandates and statuses for reform are highlighted.

Keywords:  European Parliament; motherhood; parents; parliament as a workplace; reforms



© Elena Frech, Sophie Kopsch. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.