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EU legislation on family leaves and work-life balance

The EU has provided a series of legislative acts creating minimum EU rights of citizens to combine work with family responsibilities.

The EU rights on Work-life balance set out minimum standards for paternity, parental and carers’ leave and establish additional rights, such as the right to request flexible working arrangements. These rights complement existing maternity leave rights.

Right to maternity leave

Right to paternity leave

  • Directive 2019/1158 introduced paternity leave. Fathers/ second parents have the right to take at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child.
  • Paternity leave is compensated at least at the national sick pay level.
  • EU countries have different regulations for paternity leave.

Right to parental leave

  • Directive 2019/1158 establishes a minimum of 4 months of parental leave.
  • At least 2 out of the 4 months are non-transferable from a parent to another.
  • At least the 2 non-transferable months have to be adequately compensated at a level to be decided in each EU country (as of 2 August 2024 for the last 2 weeks).
  • Parents have the right to request taking the leave in a flexible way (part-time and in a piecemeal way).

Carers leave

  • Directive 2019/1158 establishes 5 working days per year of carers' leave for each worker providing personal care or support to a relative or person living in the same household.

Right to request flexible working arrangements

  • Directive 2019/1158 gives all working parents of children up to at least 8 years and all carers a right to request flexible working arrangements.
  • These comprise reduced working hours, flexible working hours and flexibility in place of work.

Legal protection for maternity leave, paternity leave and adoption leave

  • Directive 2006/54 establishes that a woman on maternity leave is entitled to return to her job or to an equivalent post on terms and conditions which are no less favourable to her. She is entitled to benefit from any improvement in working conditions to which she would have been entitled during her absence.
  • Working men and women are protected against dismissal due to taking paternity and adoption leave. They are entitled to return to their jobs or to equivalent posts on terms and conditions which are no less favourable to them. They are entitled to benefit from any improvement in working conditions to which they would have been entitled during their absence.

Rights for self-employed workers

  • Directive 2010/41 gives the right to equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity.
  • It establishes the right to maternity allowances for at least 14 weeks.
  • This Directive also gives access to any services supplying temporary replacements existing at national level.