The EU Council has agreed the terms of a revised Parental Leave Directive. The terms of the Directive, agreed at the end of 2009, will be formally adopted in the coming months. Member States will then have 2 years to transpose its provisions.
Some of the key features of the revised Directive include:
- The right of working parents to parental leave is extended from three to four months for each child. This entitlement is given to both parents of a child or an adopted child up to a certain age (maximum of 8 years). As a general principle, the leave is an individual right and should not be transferred from one parent to another. In order to encourage a more equal take up of leave by both parents, one of the months is non-transferable.
- The terms will apply to all categories of workers (i.e. part time, fixed term workers etc). The Directive allows Member States to maintain the possibility of a qualification period of one year before an employee can apply for the leave.
- Conditions of access and rules for applying for the leave are left up to Member States.
- All forms of less favourable treatment are prohibited including dismissal on grounds of applying for or taking up parental leave.
- Governments and employers/unions will be obliged to assess and consider the specific needs of adopted children and children with a disability.
- Employees returning from parental leave will have the right to ask for changes to their working hours and/or schedules for a limited period. Employers will be obliged to balance the needs of the employee as well as the business in considering such requests. Both parties are encouraged to maintain contact during parental leave and to arrange suitable reintegration measures on return to work.
The Directive forms part of the EU Council strategy to achieve a better balance between work and family life rights. On implementation of the Directive in Ireland working parents can expect stronger rights in relation to parental leave and slightly enhanced leave periods. The leave period in Ireland will be increased by 2 weeks as under our current parental leave legislation, the entitlement stands at 14 weeks. In relation to the transferability of leave, under our current legislation the leave is non transferable, unless both parents work for the same employer. Under the terms of the revised Directive the issue of pay is left up to the Member States. In light of this, it is unlikely that the revised Directive will result in any significant upsurge of parents applying to take parental leave.