EU Directive enters into force.

SW – 09/2019

Directive (EU) 2019/1158 on work-life balance for parents and carers entered into force on 1 July 2019. The aim of the Directive is to modernise the existing EU legal framework on family-related leave and allow more flexible working arrangements.

The Directive provides for the following minimum requirements:


1.      Paternity leave

Fathers, or equivalent second parents recognised by national law, shall be entitled to ten working days of paternity leave at around the time of their child’s birth. They shall receive an allowance that is at least equal to national sick pay. Entitlement to paternity leave itself is not dependent on a certain period of employment, but the right to payment or an allowance may be conditional on a previous period of employment of up to a maximum of six months.


2.      Parental leave

Workers shall have an individual right to parental leave of four months, which can be taken prior to the child reaching a certain age, up to a maximum of eight years of age. Two months of parental leave cannot be transferred between parents. The level of pay shall be determined by the Member States or the social partners.


3.      Carers‘ leave

Carers’ leave is to be introduced. Workers who care for relatives in need have the right to five working days of carers’ leave per year. In accordance with national practice, Member States may choose a different reference period other than a year and may introduce further conditions for entitlement to carers’ leave.


4.      Flexible working arrangements

The right to request flexible working arrangements has been extended. Workers with children up to the age of eight, as well as carers, will be able to apply for more flexible working hours for caring purposes. A reasonable time limit can be set for this.


The Commission presented its proposal in April 2017 as one of the measures to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. Its aim is to address the under-representation of women in the labour market and at the same time to achieve a fairer division of parenting and caring responsibilities between women and men.


At 75.5%, the rate for men in full-time employment is currently 18 percentage points higher than the 57.4% rate for women in full-time employment. Whereas 31.1% of working women work part-time, the figure for men is only 8.2%. Almost 31% of women who are not active in the labour market state that caring for relatives was the reason for non-participation; for men, this figure was only 4.5%. The modernisation of the regulations was not only a matter of fairness, but also necessary for economic reasons. The Commission estimates the economic losses caused by the gender gap in employment at €370 billion per year.

Next steps

The Council and Parliament agreed on a compromise in January 2019, which was formally approved by Parliament at its meeting on 4 April and by the Council on 13 June. Member States now have three years to transpose the Directive into national law.


Due to Germany’s existing work-life balance regulations, Germany already complies with the minimum standards laid down in the Directive and there is no need to transpose it. According to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Germany’s system of work-life measures currently puts parents and carers in a better position than is required by the Directive.