Family Leave and the EU Directive

In April 2017, the European Commission launched its proposal for a Directive on family related leave covering parental leave, paternity leave, carer’s leave and the right to request flexible working arrangements on return to work for reasons related to care responsibilities. The Directive, once adopted, will replace the existing EU Directive on Parental leave (2010/18/EU) negotiated and adopted by the Social Partners in 2010. The Work-Life Balance Directive will be part of the co-decision procedure which means that both the European Parliament and the European Council will negotiate to reach a final text.

The existing legal and institutional leave framework fails to sufficiently address problems faced by parents and carers on a daily basis, and does not provide adequate solutions for the needs of modern societies (e.g. an ageing population, the gender pay and pension gap, and equality in the labour market).

The proposal for a Directive on Work-Life Balance is welcome. Some of the measures included are particularly helpful, such as the introduction of paid paternity leave of ten days, paid carers’ leave, non-transferable paid parental leave (at sick leave level), and the right to request flexible working conditions. These will bring real changes to the lives of many Europeans. Some of our existing provisions in the UK are more generous compared to other EU nations.

The EPSCO (Council of Ministers responsible for Employment/Social Affairs/Consumer Affairs) held a first round of talks on 7-8 December. The preparatory report identifies some of the ‘sticking points’. These relate to pay, the non-transferable four months’ individual right to parental leave, and the definition of a ‘carer’, i.e. the basis for the right to take carer’s leave. The EWL is currently consulting its members and will adopt its position soon.

It is disappointing that the current framework contains no legislative proposal to strengthen maternity rights. However EWL expects that the ‘soft measures’ proposed to carry out a study on the implementation of the current maternity leave framework will bring sufficient evidence on discriminatory practices towards pregnant women and those returning to work after child birth to merit legislative changes in the future.

If the draft Directive is agreed it will be a concrete example of how good intentions of the Social Pillar can become reality. At NAWO we have been contributing to the dialogue about the Directive. See our response to EWL here and a letter to the Government EU Select Committee here. In the UK these are the some of the rights that could be at risk if EU legislation is not probably embedded in our UK laws and safeguards are built in regarding future changes and the need to give due regard to future EU initiatives.   At the moment it is not known whether we will benefit from the Directive with the onset of Brexit.

EU Commission WLB Package here 

EU Commission WLB video here