In “Women's Rights and Gender Equality - FEMM ”

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For a brief overview of the key points of the adopted text and its significance for the citizen, please see the corresponding summary note.

Work-life balance of working families contributes to increasing the inclusiveness of the labour market 2015 following the withdrawal of the 2008 proposal to amend the 1992 Maternity Leave Directive, the Commission committed to replacing that proposal with a 'new start initiative'.  The Parliament pressed for a new initiative on work-life balance ever since.

26 April 2017 the Commission presented its proposal on work-life balance including legislative and non-legislative initiatives. The main points included the enhancement of the existing parental leave scheme by facilitating uptake by women and men with new measures on payment, flexibility and non-transferability.  It introduced a proposal for carers' leave and paternity leave and the use of flexible working arrangements to all working parents of children up to 12 and carers with dependent relatives.  It promoted non-legislative measures to provide more and better care facilities. In case of agreement on this proposal, the Framework agreement made binding by Council Directive 2010/18/EU was to be repealed and no longer be part of the Union law.

In the EP the EMPL committee, with David Casa (EPP, Malta) as rapporteur prepared the draft report. It put particular emphasis on the importance of the availability of affordable early childhood education and care, as well as on the possible burden the directive might put on micro- and small- and medium- sized enterprises, and on 'determining the statues of worker as established by the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union'. It also extended the directive to adoptive parents, proposed that the worker receives a payment or allowance of at least equivalent to 75% of the gross wage during their leave, also in the case of carers, and that the right to request flexible working arrangements and to make use of parental leave to all working parents of children should be possible up to the age of 10 of the child. The EP Committee of Legal Affairs (JURI) and FEMM (associated committee to EMPL) with Agnieszka Kozlowska-Rajewicz (EPP, Poland) provided an opinion. The EMPL committee vote on the amended report on the 11th of July kept the rapporteur's original amendments mentioned above, but also extended the directive to the case of stillbirth and called for an allowance of at least 78 % of the gross wage during the leave period, in the case of both parents and carers, and for 80% of the gross wage during paternity leave. It called on Member States to assess the need for special support in the application of paternity leave and for the working arrangements for families with children or parents with disabilities.

In the Council general approach was developed and adopted on 21 June 2018. A number of open questions from the progress report were resolved. The setting of the adequate level of remuneration would be left to the Member States, to be paid for at least 1.5 months of the minimum non-transferable period of parental leave (two months) guaranteed under the directive. In the case of parental leave, the setting of the age limit of the child would be up to the Member States, who are asked to ensure that the age limit set should allow for the effective take-up of the leave by both parents. In relation to carers' leave (where the concept of carer was redefined), both the minimum standard for remunerating carers' leave and the specification that the leave have to be at least five-days long, are removed. Decision on the length remains with the Member States. The Commission's proposal to extend flexible working arrangements to carers as well as remote working was supported.

Interinstitutional negotiations started in September 2018. The main issues discussed have been: duration, payment and conditions of the leave arrangements as well as transferability of parental leave.

A provisional agreement between the three institutions was reached in the 6th trilogue in January and endorsed by Coreper in February 2019 and was voted for in the EMPL Committee. The main elements of the agreement are in line with the Council’s general approach in the above-mentioned problem areas. The areas where it differs include:

  • paternity leave can also be taken in the case of stillbirth;
  • payment during paternity leave should be at sick pay level for the minimum period of the leave, and Member States are encouraged to make the payment for paternity leave equal to the payment or allowance granted for maternity leave at national level;
  • carers’ leave is up to five days per year per worker;
  • the payment for carers’ leave should be decided by the Member State;
  • it should be possible for Member States to limit the duration of flexible working arrangements so that using them does not lead to lower social security contributions, and in turn, to lower levels of pension entitlements;
  • Member States are also to assess whether the leave arrangements and the flexible working hours should be adjusted to particular needs, such as those of single parents, adoptive parents, parents with a disability, parents with children with a disability, or a long-term illness, or in the case of premature births or multiple births;
  • a ‘passerelle clause’ provides that any kind of family-related time off work, in particular maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave and carers' leave, available under national legislation and/or collective agreements should count towards fulfilling the requirements for one or more of the leaves covered by this new directive or in Directive 92/85/EEC, provided that all minimum requirements established therein are met and that the general level of protection afforded to workers in the field covered by the two directives is not reduced.

 The EP voted on the provisional agreement in April: 490 in favour, 82 against and 48 abstentions, the Council adopted the proposal and the final act was signed in June 2019. The Directive entered into force on the 1st of August and Member States have three years to transpose the laws.


Further reading:

Author: Nora Milotay, Members' Research Service,

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As of 20/11/2019.