On 26 April 2017, the Commission submitted its proposal for a Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers. The general objective of the proposal is to improve access to work-life balance arrangements throughout the EU, such as leaves and flexible working arrangements, as well as to increase the take-up of family-related leaves by men, thus contributing to increasing female labour market participation. In particular, the proposal would reinforce the minimum standard on (i) parental leave and (ii) flexible working arrangements, and introduce new minimum standards on (iii) paternity leave and (iv) carers' leave.
While the European Parliament is yet to deliver its position, the Social Questions Working Party - SQWP (a working group preparing all legislative work related to employment and social policy for the Council of the European Union) has started examining the proposal and discussed the file on six occasions. When it comes to the proposed carers' leave, a large number of delegations questioned the need to legislate on this at EU level and expressed doubts as to whether the introduction of such a leave would really contribute to the equal treatment of women and men on the labour market, as five days of carers' leave would not significantly change the division of caring responsibilities between women and men. Therefore, a number of delegations maintained reservations.
The Commission proposed to grant this leave to all workers who have a relative in need of care due to serious illness, a serious medical condition or a disability. Many delegations found the concept of "a serious medical condition" difficult to define and distinguish from "serious illness". The Presidency has therefore deleted "serious medical condition" from the scope. However, several delegations have asked for the scope to be further restricted.
Due to the strong opposition of a considerable number of delegations to the creation of such a leave entitlement at the EU level, and given the even broader opposition to defining a minimum compensation level for it in the Directive, the Presidency replaced the reference to sick-pay level compensation with "a payment or an adequate allowance, to be defined by the Member State and/or the social partners". While some delegations can now support Article 8(1)(c), a large number of delegations maintain their reservations and would not like to see minimum pay levels defined for carers' leave at all.
The Presidency considers that progress has been made both on the scope of carers' leave and on defining the corresponding compensation. Further work is needed and the current text serves as a good basis for future deliberations.
Please click here to access the full Progress Report on the Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on work-life balance for parents and carers.