A European directive on work-life balance for parents and carers that was adopted in 2019 has now come into effect with the result that, as of last week, all EU member states must apply the new rules.

The directive set out minimum standards for paternity, parental and carer's leave and establishes additional rights, such as the right to request flexible working arrangements.

According to the EU, the directive aims to increase the participation of women in the labour market (which is currently 10.8% lower than men’s) and the take-up of family-related leave and flexible working arrangements. Only 68% of women with care responsibilities work, compared to 81% of men with the same duties. It also allows workers to take leave to care for relatives who need support.

The directive lays down minimum requirements with regard to the following:

  • Paternity leave: Working fathers are entitled to at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child. Paternity leave must provide compensation which is at least equivalent to the level of sick pay.
  • Parental leave: Each parent is entitled to at least four months of parental leave, of which two months is paid and non-transferable. Parents can request to take their leave in a flexible form, either full-time, part-time or in segments.
  • Carer's leave: All workers providing personal care or support to a relative or person living in the same household have the right to at least five working days of carer's leave per year.
  • Flexible working arrangements: All working parents with children up to at least eight years old and all carers have the right to request reduced working hours, flexible working hours and flexibility in the place of work.

Rachel Ellis of Thompsons Solicitors commented: “As the UK is no longer an EU member state, the UK government is not required to bring the law in line with the new directive. The directive would have expanded the workplace rights of UK parents and carers in several areas. While post-Brexit the government has not yet removed any employment rights derived from previous membership of the EU, the candidates for PM continue to threaten to do so. While workers in those countries that remain in the EU will gain rights workers in the UK will continue to fall behind”.

To read the directive in full, click here