In April 2017, the Commission presented its directive proposal on work-life balance to address the challenges faced by working parents and carers.

The Council of the European Union (in its Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council configuration) adopted its general approach on the basis of the Commission proposal. The main points highlighted during the Council’s discussions were mostly focused on the paternity, the parental and the carers’ leave:

  • On paternity leave: The Commission proposed to introduce a minimum standard of 10 working days of paternity leave, paid at sick-pay level.
    The Council, in its general orientation, left the issue of payment level up to the Members States. This stance would help Member States to avoid the financial burden for social security systems and allow more flexibility in the implementation.
  • On parental leave: the initial proposal referred to a four months minimum standard on parental leave at least at sick-pay level which could no longer be transferable at all. Those leave arrangements could be used for children from “up to eight years” to “at least twelve years”. The Council decided to let Member States decide the pay level of this leave as well as the age limit of the child.
  • On carers’ leave: The Commission suggested to introduce a minimum standard of 5 working days per year paid at sick-pay level. The Council amended the definition of carer and carers’ leave. The “minimum” reference and the “five working days » have also been removed in the general approach.

Despite the adoption of this general approach, many Member States have maintained their scrutiny reservations ahead of the EPSCO Council meeting. Issues which were left on the table of the EU Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council Ministers addressed, amongst others, the length of the non-transferable parental leave and the mention of “adequate” with reference to the payment or allowance to be set by Member States for the non-transferable parental and paternity leaves.

The next step will be the adoption of the European Parliament position on the issue (rapporteur: David Casa, EPP, MT), ahead of the trilogue negotiations to be conducted between the three institutions.

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