On 24th January and after 5 months of negotiations, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the European Commission’s proposal for a new Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers. This agreement now has to be formally adopted by both the European Parliament and the Council.
This agreement is welcomed by Autism-Europe, which joined COFACE-Families Europe and 12 other European and international civil society networks in November 2018 to co-sign an open letter calling on EU decision-makers to show citizens that they care, and reach an agreement on the Directive before the end of 2018.
What will the new Directive improve?
Paternity leave: Working fathers will be able to take at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child. Paternity leave will be compensated at least at the level of sick pay.
Parental leave: At least 4 months per parent, out of which 2 months are non-transferable between parents. Parents can request to take the leave in flexible forms (full-time, part-time or in a piecemeal way). The 2 non-transferable months of parental leave will be compensated at a level set by Member States.
Carers’ leave: All workers will have the right to 5 working days of carers’ leave per year.
Flexible working arrangements: All working parents with children up to at least 8 years old and all carers will have the right to request the following flexible working arrangements:
- Reduced working hours
- Flexible working hours
- Flexibility on the place of work
Glass half empty
COFACE Families Europe, the European network of civil society associations and with which Autism-Europe cooperates closely, has reacted to this agreement by affirming that “this directive will lead to little change in some countries in relation to the family-related leaves covered by the directive.” Some countries will have to reach the European minimum standards, and therefore see real changes. While other countries with leave systems which are significantly more generous than the standards of the directive (best-performing countries) will be able to take from existing leaves in order to meet the minimum requirements of the directive.
Annemie Drieskens, COFACE Families Europe President: “While COFACE expectations have not been fully met with this directive, we acknowledge that is a step in the right direction. We now expect national governments to consolidate those social rights and move towards swift transposition. In doing so they must consider the possibility of upward reforms so that European families no longer have to choose between work or family”.
More about the Work-life balance Directive
To address the challenges that working parents and carers face in reconciling work and family responsibilities, the European Commission proposed the ‘Work-life Balance’ Initiative in April 2017. This initiative is a key deliverable of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
This Directive sets a number of new or higher standards for parental, paternity and carers’ leave, and the right to request flexible working arrangements. It takes account of the needs of small and medium-sized companies and makes sure that they are not disproportionately affected. The new Directive is complemented with policy and funding measures, supporting Member States in enforcing existing dismissal protection legislation, developing formal care services and addressing economic disincentives for second earners to work.