17 / 4 / 2009 9.31am
At the end of 2009, European Ministers agreed a new law negotiated by the European social partners which revises the 1995 Framework Agreement on Parental Leave.
The parental leave agreement allows qualifying parents the right to take unpaid time off work to look after their child or make arrangements for their welfare.
Social partners CEEP (European Public Sector Employers), BusinessEurope, UEAPME (European Association of Craft, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) and ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation) reached agreement in March 2009 on the following improved provisions:
- the lengthening of leave entitlements from three to four months (with a possibility to decide at the national level how this additional month would best be used to encourage take up of parental leave by fathers);
- offering a right to request flexible working to parents (coupled with an employers’ right to refuse for important business reasons);
- opening up entitlement to parental leave to “new family structures” (i.e. same sex couples etc);
- special provisions to be sent out at member state level for parents of disabled children; and
- acknowledging the role of income during parental leave (but with payment or otherwise to be determined at national level)
This agreement applies to all employees regardless of their type of contract. It will be implemented by a Council Directive on a proposal from the European Commission, according to Article 139 in the EC Treaty.
The deadline for implementation of the directive is December 2011, however, MPs in the UK have voiced the desire to push legislation through in the current parliament.
The revision was motivated by a second stage consultation from the European Commission on the reconciliation of work and family life issued in 2007. In this consultation, the Commission, backed up by the European Parliament, argued that it was time to ensure that the parental leave provisions improve and that these improved entitlements should be the same across Europe. The Commission has proposed to increase entitlements to four months (with the fourth month being granted if parents use and share their basic entitlements) at a compensation of no less than 66% of previous salary. As this would significantly increase costs for many employers, CEEP, BusinessEurope, UEAPME and ETUC agreed to negotiate autonomously to seek to revise the existing agreement.