The directive on work-life balance for parents entered into force on 1 August and aims at encouraging parents to share parental leave. EU Member States have three years to implement it.
The new directive sets minimum requirements for Member States. It gives each parent at least 4 months of parental leave, out of which two months are non-transferable between them. The two non-transferable months of parental leave will be compensated at a level set by the Member States.
The directive was proposed by the European Commission already in April 2017 but only in January 2019 was a political agreement found between the European Parliament and the Council.
While the new rules on non-transferable parental leave is considered as an important step forward in persuading more fathers to spend time with their new-born children, the directive also introduces paternity leave of at least 10 days after the birth of the child, compensated at least at the level of sick pay.
“A fair and sustainable Europe means giving women and men the right to play an equal role at home and in the workplace,” said Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the Commission, and expressed hope that the rules will strengthen gender equality.
The legislative text says that the Member States should set the payment or allowance for the minimum non-transferable period of parental leave at an adequate level.
According to the Commission, all EU Member States offer some form of parental leave following the birth of a child. However, there are large variations in terms of the leave length, compensation levels and whether leave is a family or individual right.
Currently, 17 Member States already meet the minimum of 2 weeks’ paternity leave at the time of the child’s birth. However, of these countries, only 13 offer two weeks of well-paid paternity leave. Well paid is defined as at least 66 % of previous earnings.
Sweden, where paid parental leave was introduced in 1974, shows that it can take a long time to achieve shared parental leave. The share of fathers has steadily increased over the years but is still below 30 % of all paid leave days according to the Swedish social insurance agency.