On 4th April 2019, the European Parliament approved the provisional agreement on a Directive on work/life balance, at its first reading. See the European Commission’s factsheet for more information on the Directive.
The main elements of the new Directive are:
- Fathers or second parents will be able to take at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth or adoption of a child, paid at a level not less than the level of sick pay (in line with article 11 of Council Directive 92/85/EEC). The right to paternity leave will not be subject to a prior service requirement. However, the payment of the paternity leave can be subject to a six month prior service requirement. Member states with more generous parental leave systems will be able to keep their current national arrangements;
- Individual right to 4 months of parental leave, from which 2 months are non-transferable between the parents and are paid. The level of payment is to be set by member states. Parents can request to take the leave in flexible forms (full time, part-time or piecemeal). The child must be under 8;
- A new concept at EU level – carer’s leave for workers caring for a relative or person in the same household in need of significant care or support due to a serious medical reason. No mention of payment. Carers will be able to take 5 working days per year. Member states may use a different reference period, allocate leave on a case-by-case basis, and may introduce additional conditions for the exercise of this right;
- Extension of the right to request flexible working arrangements to working carers in addition to this right for all parents
- Standard provisions obliging Member States to provide legal protection against discriminisation /victimisation/dismissal of employees who exercise these rights, and penalties for breaches.
Implications and action for the NHS
The UK will have 3 years from the date of entry into force to implement this Directive (unless in the unlikely event that we leave the EU without a deal, or negotiate an opt-out from this policy area). Government will need to consult upon and introduce UK implementing legislation by this deadline.
NHS Employers will compare and contrast the legislative provisions with current employer obligations and practice and, in partnership with NHS trade unions, identify groups of employees affected, pinpoint possible problems or issues for employers or employees and support them in complying with the new rules.