Employment: EU social partners agree to increase parental leave

Posted on 7th January, 2009

Estimated reading time 2 minutes

On 18 June 2009 the EU social partners revised an agreement to increase the period of parental leave from 3 months to 4 months per parent.  UK employees who have at least one year’s service are currently entitled to up to 13 weeks unpaid leave for each child up to their fifth birthday (or 18th birthday if the child is disabled).  The leave can be taken in blocks of a minimum of one week at a time over the period of entitlement.  The EU believes the revised agreement promotes equal sharing of parental responsibility between parents, recognition of diverse family structures and improving the balance between family and work life.

Proposed changes –increased leave and right to request flexible working

As well as increasing the leave entitlement from three months to four months per child, the framework agreement proposes a new right to request changes to working conditions such as working hours on return from parental leave.  At the moment an employee who has at least 26 weeks' service may make a request for flexible working in respect of a child aged under 6 (or 18 if the child has a disability).  However if the request is turned down or the employee wants to make further changes the employee must wait a minimum of 12 months before submitting another application.  A new right to request changes to working conditions under the parental leave regulations means employees may not have to wait a year between applications.

Implementation some way off

It could take up to three years for the revised agreement to be implemented in the EU Member States.  The Commission will need to submit a proposal to the Council to implement the agreement by a directive, in accordance with the EC Treaty; the directive must be adopted by a qualified majority of the Council.  We will keep you updated on further developments.

Further reading

Revised agreement on parental leave

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