SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG (Germany)

Worldcrunch

BERLIN- This past year was the first for Germany's innovative new Family Care Leave law that allows workers to take time off the job to care for needy relatives. But since coming into force at the beginning of 2012, Germany has met with little interest according to Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) statistics seen by Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Only 135 individuals exercised the option under the terms of the new law, which allow working people to reduce their time by up to 15 hours a week for a maximum period of two years.

Employers pay 75% of the worker's salary for the off-time and in return, workers work at reduced rates once they return full-time to their job. Interest-free loans are available to employers to pay the advances and an insurance policy is required for the event that the worker cannot repay the advance.

In Germany more than 1.6 million people are cared for at home either by relatives or home care services. In situations such as this, most employers make tailor-made arrangements not involving state help with employees caring for relatives at home.

A government spokesperson said that "major social undertakings" such as the Family Care Leave law required a certain amount of time to take hold and that the support of unions and employee associations was essential "for the possibility to gradually become the rule."

The BDA – the federation of German employers' associations – criticized the project sharply. "The figures show that the law is unnecessary," a spokesperson said.

Employers and employees could, depending on the company and the specifics of individual cases, create their own solutions. "Legal regulation is at best superfluous and at worst harmful," the BDA spokesperson said.