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14 August 2019
The new EU Work-Life Balance Directive, which brings in new rights for carers and working parents, must be implemented in all EU member states by the middle of 2022. This article outlines what the directive means for UK employers.
The directive originates from the EU Commission's unsuccessful attempts to improve maternity rights across the European Union. Currently, EU law provides for 14 weeks' maternity leave. For many years, the commission tried to persuade member states to increase this amount but no agreement could be reached either on a new maternity leave period or the level at which it should be paid. Eventually, in an effort to break the political deadlock, the commission withdrew its proposals for maternity leave reform and launched a new set of proposals designed to modernise the existing EU legal framework on family leave and flexible working. The result is the new EU Work-Life Balance Directive, which has just been adopted and must be implemented by member states by the middle of 2022.
The new directive reflects increasing calls for fathers to take up their share of parenting responsibilities and a growing concern about the European Union's ageing population and its future demand for informal care. The proposed introductory text to the directive states that "work-life balance policies should contribute to the achievement of gender equality" and explicitly acknowledges that:
in the light of the challenges that arise from demographic change, together with the resultant pressure on public expenditure in some Member States, the need for informal care is expected to increase.
As with the EU Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive, which was adopted at the same time, the outcome of Brexit negotiations will determine whether the directive needs to be implemented in the United Kingdom.
In the event of a hard Brexit, it can be assumed that the United Kingdom would not need to comply, but it could have been obliged to do so under Theresa May's proposed withdrawal agreement and it could potentially choose to do so as part of a commitment to keep pace with EU employment rights.
The directive introduces the following key new rights:
Member states will have three years to implement the new rights but are allowed an additional two years (ie, five years in total) to bring in the right to pay for the last two weeks of paid parental leave.
As explained above, the United Kingdom may not need to implement the directive. However, if the United Kingdom does need to comply (or if it chooses to do so), it will need to make the following changes to its existing family leave and pay framework:
For further information on this topic please contact Colin Leckey or Gemma Taylor at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.
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