European social partners are called to put forward their point of view on the planned measures. If they do not enter into negotiations, the Commission will be free to decide whether to initiate the legislative process outlined in the consultation document.
The consultation document contains a proposal to reform the Maternity Leave Directive. Having failed with an initial plan to revise the directive, which would have involved extending leave from 14 to 18 weeks, the Commission has decided to change track by proposing an extension to the period of protection against dismissal (up to six months following birth, for example) and a ban on preparatory steps for dismissal during that period. The Commission says it would codify existing case law of the European Court of Justice on this issue.
The Commission also plans to present a directive on paternity leave, while leaving the questions of length and remuneration open. A minimum duration of two weeks has been mentioned, while remuneration could range from unpaid to the level of sick pay or full pay. The EU executive body proposes revising EU law on parental leave, to specify the basis on which leave can be taken, and its level of flexibility. For example, whether it can be full time or part time leave, taken in one block or in separate stages.
The Commission also proposes the introduction of leave for caregivers, allowing employees to take care of a loved one who may be ill. It is still not specified how this would be arranged, how it would work in practice and the conditions for eligibility. For example, whether this would consist of reorganising working hours, a change of workplace or reduced working hours, and whether one has an automatic right or must make a request, to be accepted by their employer.