Parental Leave – EU Council extends entitlement to four monthsFriday, March 19th, 2010
On 8 March 2010, the Council of the European Union adopted a Directive extending workers’ rights to parental leave from three to four months for each parent. At least one of the four months cannot be transferred to the other parent (i.e. it is lost if not taken), encouraging fathers to take the leave.
Other new elements compared to the existing Directive include the clarification that all workers are covered, regardless of the type of their contract (e.g. fixed-term, part-time and temporary agency workers).
The new Directive also provides for better protection against discrimination and ensures a smoother return to work. In particular, a worker applying for or taking parental leave must not be treated less favourably for doing so and, when returning from parental leave, workers may request changes to their working hours for a limited period.
Member states have two years in which to transpose the new Directive into national law.
The UK’s existing parental leave provisions, implementing the existing Directive, already meet many of the new requirements. Each parent, for example, currently has a personal entitlement to 13 weeks’ leave, so there is no need for a transfer facility. This entitlement would still have to be increased to at least 17 weeks, although 18 weeks is already provided where the child is disabled. The current one-year service condition is a problem as it would prevent many temporary agency workers and some fixed-term workers from taking parental leave.
A consultation document should be expected in due course.