Under a compromised agreed this week by labour ministers that met at the Council of the EU in Luxembourg, the right to 10 days of paid paternity leave will be introduced into EU law. Meanwhile at least one and a half months of the parental leave already granted under EU law (a minimum of four months) will be paid. Against the wishes of the European Commission, which recommended pay to be at least the same as that paid for sick leave, to encourage fathers to make use of their leave, member states will be free to set the level of pay. The text underlines, however, that such pay should be “adequate”.
On 21 June, the Council agreed its negotiating position or “general approach” on the directive on work-life balance for parents and carers, which revises the 2010/18 directive on parental leave. The body will now engage in three-way discussions, with the European Parliament and Commission, and the stance offers the possibility that the text be adopted by the end of the present legislature (May 2019).
The draft directive contains a number of additions to the 2010 text:
* At least 10 working days of paternity leave for fathers or second parents, with pay equal or greater than that for sick leave.
* Four months of parental leave (as already granted), with pay equal or greater than that for sick leave. This can be taken up to when the child turns 12 (compared to 8 presently) and cannot be transferred, to avoid fathers passing their leave rights to the mother (under the current directive, member states can allow 3 out of the 4 months to be transferred).
* Parents and carers will be able to request flexible working arrangements (flexible hours, remote working), and employers will only be able to refuse these on reasonable grounds.
* The right to carers’ leave, of five days per year, unpaid.
The compromise that has been reached is some distance from the Commission’s original proposal (see the updated published on the EELA website here ) and the debates that took place at European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.
Paternity leave. Labour ministers that met in the Council configuration were not opposed to the introduction of 10 working days of paternity leave. However, due to the financial burden felt by the social security systems of some member states, the compromise has left it up to individual countries to decide what the level of pay should be, provided it is of an “adequate” level.
Parental leave. Under the compromise, parental leave should be paid for at least one month and a half. Once again, ministers opted to allow member states to set the level of pay, however they are obliged to make sure this is of an “adequate” level and to encourage the better-paid parent to take the leave. Member states will also be free to decide the age of the child by which the leave should be used. However they are encouraged to ensure that the age limit set should allow for the effective take-up of the leave by both parents, as a low age limit would, in practice, prevent some fathers from taking parental leave. Furthermore, the Council hopes to set the amount of non-transferable leave – lost if not taken – to two months.
Carer leave. On this type of leave, the compromise simply says: “Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that workers have the right to carers’ leave, to be defined in national legislation or practice.”
Flexible working arrangements. Ministers validated this principle, with some changes: the worker in question must have at least six months of service, while requests of flexible working arrangements that can be made by a worker may be limited to a reasonable number within a given period, which shall not be less than once every twelve months.