Parental Leave – European social partners agree on extending rights for all employeesWednesday, June 24th, 2009
On 18 June, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities announced the outcome of six months’ negotiations between the social partners on extending the parental leave rights already provided by a European Directive in 1996.
Social dialogue takes place routinely between six cross-industry organisations representing employers and employees, including the European Trade Union Confederation and the Confederation of European Business.
The Framework Agreement proposes the following parental leave rights:
- application to all workers, men and women, with an employment contract or employment relationship as defined by the law or collective agreements, including part-time and fixed-term contract workers
- entitlement to an individual right to parental leave on the grounds of the birth or adoption of a child, to care for the child until a given age up to eight years, as set by Member States
- period of leave of at least four months, preferably non-transferable between parents, but at least one month non-transferable
- conditions for the right decided by Member States and social partners, including how much leave may be taken at a time, qualifying service of not more than one year, circumstances in which leave may be postponed, notice periods to take leave, and special arrangements for children with disabilities or long-term illness
- the right to return to the same job or equivalent job
- on returning to work, the right to request to change their working hour and patterns of work
- entitlement to time off work for urgent family reasons, with annual limits.
The European Commission is now required to submit a proposal for implementation by means of a Directive, subject to adoption by a qualified majority of the Council of Ministers.
The right to parental leave, as introduced into the UK in 1999, makes provision for
- up to 13 weeks unpaid leave, or 18 weeks in the case of a disabled child, limited to no more than four weeks in a year
- leave to be taken in whole weeks, up to the child’s 5th birthday, or 18th birthday in the case of a disabled child
- return to the original job, unless leave is for more than 4 weeks, in which case return to an equivalent job.
Existing UK employment law also provides for unpaid time off in emergency family situations.
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