On the 13th June 2019, the European Council adopted a Directive aimed at bridging the gap between males and females in the workforce by catering for possible flexible working arrangements for parents and carers. Each Member State will need to implement this Directive into their national law.

The main features of the Directive are the following:

Paternal Leave: The Directive introduces the right for fathers to avail themselves of not less than ten working days of paternal leave on the occasion of the birth of their child. This right to paternity leave is applicable without any prejudice to marital or family status as defined in national law so as to avoid discrimination between married and unmarried couples or between same sex couples and heterosexual couples. Paternal leave is to be paid at a level equal to that currently set at EU level for maternity leave.

Parental leave: Parents are entitled to four months of parental leave which may be broken down in periods of one month at a time. Of these four months, two months are non-transferable between the parents and are paid. The rest are unpaid. The employer and the employee may decide that these four months are granted on a full-time or a part-time basis, in a piecemeal way or in the form of a time credit system.

The Work-Life Balance Directive also provides for flexibility in working patterns, remote working possibilities and flexible working hours for parents and carers.

Carers: Carers will be able to take a period of paid leave at sick-pay level of at least five working days per year, in those instances where their relatives are seriously ill or otherwise dependent on them, such that they require the employee's care. The Directive defines 'relative' as a 'worker's son, daughter, mother, father, spouse or partner in civil partnership, where such partnerships are envisaged by national law.'

Right to Return to Work: At the end of the said leave, employees are entitled to return to their job or an equivalent post, provided that the terms and conditions applicable are not less favourable than they were before taking such leave and they are entitled to benefit from any improvements which they would have otherwise been entitled to during the period of leave. Similarly, Member States need to ensure that no employee availing of these periods of leave is dismissed from employment solely on the ground of having applied for or made use of paternity, paternal and/or carers' leave.