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Better Work-Life Balance For Parents and Carers’ in the EU: Council Adopts New Rules

In a society where people must merge the over-crowded work schedule with personal life and family commitments, the concept known as “work-life balance” has become an EU policy priority. In this respect, the European Parliament and European Council have adopted a new EU Directive on 20th of June 2019 that aims to set minimum requirements that should alleviate the conflicting responsibilities of many parents and workers with caring responsibilities in particular.

Taking into consideration that the EU supports and complements the activities of the Member States in the area of equality between men and women regarding labor market opportunities and encourages the removal of gender stereotypes, the newly adopted Directive (EU) 2019/1158 legislates the following major aspects:

Paternity leave: In this respect, Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that fathers have the right to paternity leave of 10 working days that is to be taken on the occasion of the birth of the worker’s child for the purposes of providing care. When taking a paternity leave, workers must receive a payment or an allowance at least equivalent to that which would be received in the event of a break on grounds connected to the worker’s state of health.

Paternal leave: In this regard, measures must be taken to ensure that each worker has an individual right to a paid parental leave of four months that is to be taken before the child reaches a specific age, but not more than the age of eight.

Carers’ leave: First of all, a “carer” is defined as a worker providing personal care or support to a relative or to a person who lives in the same household as the worker and who is in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason.

On this point, Member States must ensure the necessary measures pursuant to which each worker has the right to carers’ leave of at least five working days per year.

Time off from work on grounds of force majeure: In this context, the concept of “force majeure” is referring to unpredicted events in the field of urgent family reasons such as illness or accident, making the worker’s immediate attendance indispensable. The amount of days that could be taken off by workers can be restricted by Member States to a certain amount based on two different criteria (a certain amount of time per year or a limited number of leaves per accident type, or a combination of these two grounds).

Flexible working arrangements: Ensuring flexible working arrangements for caring purposes implies that workers with children up to a specific age, which shall be at least eight years, and carers have the right to adjust their working patterns, including through the use of remote working arrangements, flexible working schedules, or reduced working hours.

Such measures do not come only as a first step in tackling problems such as aging workforce or frustration among workers in search of a work-life balance, but also in making employers aware of the renewed interest in personal lives and family values in a fast-paced society.

Member States have three years to adopt laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the directive.

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