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European Union: New Directive on Work-Life Balance for Parents and Caregivers

(July 29, 2019) On July 12, 2019, the European Union (EU) published a Directive on Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers in the Official Journal of the European Union (O.J.). (Directive (EU) 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers and Repealing Council Directive 2010/18/EU (Work-Life Balance Directive), 2019 O.J. (L 188) 79, EUR-Lex website.) The Directive is part of a package of legislative and nonlegislative measures to address women’s underrepresentation in employment and to encourage a better sharing of caregiving responsibilities between women and men. (Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers and Repealing Council Directive 2010/18/EU, COM (2017) 253 final (Apr. 28, 2017), at 1, EUR-Lex website.) The Directive will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the O.J. (Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) art. 297, para. 1, 2016 O.J. (C 202) 1, EUR-Lex website.)

Contents of the Directive

The Work-Life Balance Directive introduces new rules for the following four areas: paternity leave, parental leave, caregivers’ leave, and flexible working arrangements for working parents or caregivers. (Work-Life Balance Directive art. 1.)

Paternity Leave

Currently, there are no minimum standards for paternity leave at the EU level. The Directive mandates that EU Member States ensure that fathers may take paternity leave for at least 10 working days when a child is born, irrespective of family or marital status. (Id. art. 4.) Fathers taking paternity must receive a payment or allowance at least equivalent to the EU level of maternity leave. (Id. art. 8.) Maternity leave compensation is determined according to article 11 of Directive 92/85/EEC. (Council Directive 92/85/EEC of 19 October 1992 on the Introduction of Measures to Encourage Improvements in the Safety and Health at Work of Pregnant Workers and Workers Who Have Recently Given Birth or Are Breastfeeding (Tenth Individual Directive Within the Meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC), 1992 O.J. (L 348) 1, EUR-Lex website.)

Parental Leave

The Directive also changes the requirements for parental leave. Currently, parents have a right to at least four months of unpaid parental leave per parent with one nontransferable month. The Directive does not change the overall amount of parental leave but makes two months nontransferrable between parents and mandates that they be paid. (Id. art. 5.) In addition, Member States must ensure that parental leave may be taken in flexible forms, such as on a part-time basis. (Id. art. 5, para. 6.) The level of compensation is to be determined by the Member State. (Id. art. 8, para. 3.)

Caregivers’ Leave

The Directive also introduces caregivers’ leave for workers providing “personal care or support to a relative, or to a person who lives in the same household as the worker, and who is in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason.” (Id. art. 3, para. 1(c).) Caregivers are entitled to five working days of leave per year. (Id. art. 6.) Details of what cases are covered are left to the Member States. (Id. art. 3, para. 1(c) & art.  6.)

Flexible Working Arrangements

Lastly, the Directive provides that Member States must ensure that workers with children up to at least eight years of age and caregivers have the option of flexible working arrangements. The duration of such arrangements may be limited in a reasonable way. (Id. art. 9.) Workers have the right to return to the same work pattern at the end of the agreed-upon period. (Id. art. 9, para. 3.)