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EU agrees better work-life balance for parents and carers

EU agrees better work-life balance for parents and carers

Photo © European Union 2011 - EP

(BRUSSELS) - The EU institutions reached a provisional agreement Friday on a proposal to improve access for working parents to work-life balance arrangements such as leaves and flexible working arrangements.

The agreement sets minimum requirements for member states, in a bid to boost women's representation in the workplace and strengthen the role of a father or an equivalent second parent in the family. This would benefit children and family life, whilst reflecting societal changes more accurately, and promoting gender equality.

The new directive will encourage men and women to take an equal share in family-related responsibilities. The new rules should also increase the take-up of family-related leaves and flexible working arrangements by men, thus making it easier for women to stay on the labour market. Parents and carers will be able to better reconcile their professional and private lives, and companies will benefit from more motivated workers.

The agreement by the European Parliament and the EU Council was welcomed by the Commission.

"The new rules are a model for how to align social and economic priorities. Businesses will be able to attract and retain talented women and men," the EU executive said in a statement: "The European economy will gain from this proposal, which will contribute to closing the gender employment gap. Better work-life balance for both women and men is not only the fair, but also the smart thing to do.”

Main elements of the proposal

  • fathers or second parents will be able to take at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of a child paid at a level equal to that currently set at EU level for maternity leave (in line with article 11 of Council Directive 92/85/EEC). The right to paternity leave will not be subject to a prior service requirement. However, the payment of the paternity leave can be subject to a six month prior service requirement. Member states with more generous parental leave systems will be able to keep their current national arrangements;
  • individual right to 4 months of parental leave, from which 2 months are non-transferable between the parents and are paid. The level of payment is to be set by member states;
  • a new concept at EU level - carers' leave for workers caring for relatives in need of care or support due to serious medical reasons. Carers will be able to take 5 working days per year. Member states may use a different reference period, allocate leave on a case-by-case basis, and may introduce additional conditions for the exercise of this right;
  • extension of the right to request flexible working arrangements to working carers in addition to this right for all parents.

Member states will now examine the provisional agreement, which still needs to be endorsed by the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee. The formal vote in both the Council and the European Parliament will follow at a later stage.

Commission proposal

Council's position

Leave and flexible work for parents and carers: Council agrees general approach on the draft directive on work-life balance (press release, 21/06/2018)

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