EU Parliament Votes for a Better Balance between Work and Private Life

On 4 April 2019, the European Parliament voted a directive to allow “parents and caregivers to better reconcile their work and family lives”. Fathers will be entitled to at least 10 working days’ paternity leave, and each parent will be entitled to at least 4 months of parental leave, including 2 months, which are non-transferrable.

This directive also establishes a new right for European employees: a minimum of 5 working days per year for caregivers, to provide care for either a relative or household member with a serious medical condition, a disability or an age-related disability.

The text also stipulates that member states must take the necessary measures to ensure that parents of children (up to 8 years old) and caregivers have the right to request flexible work arrangements in order to care for their family members.

Some countries, including France, provide better leave conditions compared to these new minimum requirements. On January 1, 2019, France set paternity and childcare leave at 11 calendar days. This leave is optional and can be taken following the 3-day birth leave or separately. Moreover, following the 2015 reform, intended to better distribute parental leave between both parents, the period was reduced from 3 to 2 years if only the mother took a leave of absence from work. The leave period is still 3 years if the father also takes one year off work. Based on the shortcomings observed in this reform, a recent report suggests reevaluating this leave policy which has penalized parents’ free choice.

France also provides caregivers with a leave of 3 months, which can be extended to a full year, but it is unpaid. In addition, a leave policy for family solidarity has been granted, to look after relatives who are seriously ill, at the end-of-life, with a maximum leave of 21 days, and includes a daily subsidy.

While this directive is intended to foster gender equality and assist parents with their family responsibilities, it also aims to address the demographic changes due to the aging European population. As specified in the directive’s preamble, informal care measures need to be implemented, to limit the impact on public finance costs.

Each EU member state now has 3 years to comply with this legislation on a national level.

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