MEPs and NGOs urge ministers to reach deal on Work-Life Balance directive

A father plays with his daughters at home. [Shutterstock]

More than 3000 organisations and a group of senior MEPs have urged EU employment ministers to broker a common deal to open talks with MEPs on the Work-life Balance Directive next Thursday (21 June).

In 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal to harmonize EU legislations on work-life balance, under the Social Pillar, including by establishing EU minimum standards on paternity, parental and carers leaves. The Parliament broadly backed the text in December last year and is now waiting for the Council to start the negotiations.

In an open letter sent on Monday (18 June) the NGOs and trade union confederations urged ministers “to respect European citizens and their representatives by moving forward and adopting a Council position” on the proposal .

“The existing EU legal and institutional framework fails to sufficiently address challenges faced by its citizens and does not provide adequate solutions for the needs of modern societies,” the signatories argued.

“The proposal for a Directive on Work-Life Balance is the right way forward,” they said.

The letter was signed by European Trade Union Confederation, Eurochild, the European Network for Independent Living, ILGA Europe or COFACE Families Europe are behind the imitative.

Socialist group leader Udo Bullman, and his counterparts Philippe Lamberts and Gabriele Zimmer of the Greens and left-wing GUE/NGL group, together with the Parliament’s rapporteurs on the text also signed the missive.

Commission to propose ten-day paternity leave

The European Commission will tomorrow propose the first EU-level legal law guaranteeing paternity leave lasting at least ten working days. The legal change, which also includes measures on parental leave on time off for people caring for sick dependents, comes as the Commission presents a 20-point list of EU social rights.

The pending issues

Employment and Social Affairs ministers will meet next Thursday (21 June) in a bid to agree on a negotiating position. However, some differences are still on the table.

The Commission’s proposal to increase the number of non-transferable months of parental leave to four is too ambitious for many countries, with a number of delegations mooting a possible compromise of two months, and others preferring to stick to the current provision of one month.

There are also diverging views among governments on paid paternity leave. While all EU-28 governments support the idea, some believe that national administrations should decide on the remuneration provided. Bulgaria, which currently holds the six month rotating presidency of the Council, removed the reference to an “adequate” allowance from the text, as some delegations considered “more legal certainty” was needed.

Ministers have agreed, however, to propose to give more flexibility to member states to set the age limit of the child for parental leave, and on the minimum remuneration or number of days off for carers.

The only Commission proposal the ministers appear to support without reservation is the introduction of flexible working arrangements for carers.

The regulation aims to ensure equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and treatment at work and to make it easier for carers to balance their work and caring duties.

“Working parents and their families as well as carers and those who depend on them do not have time to lose. Please do not waste this opportunity to show your citizens you care about them,” the letter argued.

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