Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Work-life balance

Following the withdrawal of the Maternity Leave Directive, the Commission decided to take a broader approach in addressing women's underrepresentation in the labour market. One of the deliverables of the European Pillar of Social Rights is the Work-life Balance Initiative, which addresses the work-life balance challenges faced by working parents and carers.

This initiative takes into account the developments in society over the past decade in order to enable parents and 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 consultation, 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 are mutually reinforcing.

Legal 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/equivalent 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.
  • Strengthening of the existing right to 4 months of parental leave, by making 2 out of the 4 months non-transferable from a parent to another, and compensated at a level to be set by Member States. Parents will also have the right to request to take the leave in a flexible way (e.g. part-time or in a piecemeal way).
  • Introduction of carers' leave for workers providing personal care or support to a relative or person living in the same household. Working carers will be able to take 5 days per year.
  • Extension of the existing 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 at least 8 years old, and all carers.

The Council adopted the proposal on 13 June 2019. The Directive entered into force in July 2019.

Policy 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 provision of formal care services (childcare, out-of-school care and long-term care),
  • removing economic disincentives for second earners which prevent women from accessing the labour market or working full-time.

This initiative will benefit individuals, companies and the wider society.

Parents and carers will profit from a better work-life balance. Moreover, the foreseen increase in women’s 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 from less absenteeism. The rise in women’s employment will also contribute to addressing the challenge of demographic ageing and ensuring Member States' financial stability.

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