Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Work-life balance

One of the deliverables of the European Pillar for Social Rights is the 'New Start' initiative to address the work-life balance challenges faced by working parents and carers. After the withdrawal of the Maternity Leave Directive, the Commission has decided to take a broader approach in order to address women's underrepresentation in the labour market.

This new initiative takes into account the developments in society over the past decade in order to enable parents and other people with caring responsibilities to better balance their work and family lives and to encourage a better sharing of caring responsibilities between women and men.

It is based on the results of the public consultation and two-stage social partner consultations and the analysis of the accompanying impact assessment. The Communication: An initiative to support Work-Life Balance for Working Parents and Carers sets out a comprehensive package of complementary legal and policy measures, which will reinforce each other.

Legislative measures

The initiative aims at modernising the existing EU legal framework in the area of family-related leaves and flexible working arrangements. The proposal for a Directive on Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers includes:

  • The introduction of paternity leave. Fathers/second parents will be able to take at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child, compensated at least at the level of sick pay.
  • The strengthening of parental leave by making the 4 months period compensated at least at sick pay level and non-transferable from a parent to another. Parents will also have the right to request to take leave in a flexible way (part-time or in a piecemeal way) and the age of the child up to which parents can take leave will be increased from 8 to 12 years old.
  • The introduction of carers' leave for workers caring for seriously ill or dependent relatives. Working carers will be able to take 5 days per year, compensated at least at sick pay level.
  • The extension of the right to request flexible working arrangements (reduced working hours, flexible working hours and flexibility in place of work) to all working parents of children up to 12 and carers with dependent relatives.

Non-legislative measures

In order to complement the legislative proposal, the initiative contains a set of non-legislative measures to support Member States in achieving our common goals. These include:

  • ensuring protection against discrimination and dismissal for parents (including pregnant women and workers coming back from a leave) and carers;
  • encouraging a gender-balanced use of family-related leaves and flexible working arrangements;
  • making better use of European funds to improve long-term and childcare services;
  • removing economic disincentives for second earners which prevent women from accessing the labour market or working full-time.

It is expected that this initiative will reap benefits for individuals, companies and the wider society.

Parents and carers will profit from more work-life balance and the foreseen increase in women employment, their higher earnings and career progression will positively impact their and their families' economic prosperity, social inclusion and health.

Companies will benefit from a wider talent pool and a more motivated and productive labour force, as well as less absenteeism. The rise in female employment will also contribute in addressing the challenge of demographic ageing and ensuring Member States' financial stability.

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