Proposal for a directive on work-life balance contains excessive demands

On 26th April 2017, the European Commission presented a proposal for a directive on work-life balance for parents and carers as part of its social package. This draft directive would replace the 2010 parental leave based on a social-partner agreement. The background to this was the Commission’s withdrawal of the proposal for revision of the maternity leave directive in 2015 which had been blocked in the Council for years.
Among other things, the Commission proposes the introduction of a 10-day paternity leave on the birth of a child as well as introduction of a non-transferable 4-month parental leave for each parent up to the child’s 12th birthday. In all cases, the leave provisions would involve payments equal to at least the level of sickness benefit. In addition, each parent would be given a right to flexible working time arrangements as well as reduced working time, flexible working time and flexibility with respect to workplace location.

Furthermore, female and male employees would have the possibility to take at least five working days a year as care leave. An “adequate income” corresponding at least to the level of sickness benefit should also be guaranteed for care leave.

These proposals would require extensive amendments to German legislation

In Germany, fathers and mothers alike have the right to take parental leave. This includes the right to determine the timing and duration themselves. Fathers can also take parental leave for a few days from the time of birth.

The European Commission now proposes that it should be possible to take parental leave up to a child’s 12th birthday. That would mean a considerable transposition effort for Germany. The existing rule whereby parental leave can be taken up to the 8th birthday is sufficient since this gives parents the possibility to react to serious changes for example when a child reaches school age.

In addition, setting the level of monetary benefit during parental leave should continue to be left to the Member States, as the social partners stipulated explicitly in their 2010 agreement.

A range of German laws on federal parental benefit and parental leave (BEEG), on part-time and fixed-term work, on care leave and family care ensure rights to part-time work and absences and hence provide the corresponding flexibility in these specific cases. Solutions which go beyond statutory rights are already found to a considerable degree in practice between the contracting partners in order to combine family life and work in the best possible way.

Create better framework conditions – for example, expansion of childcare facilities

Instead of further regulation and/or a tightening of existing EU directives, framework conditions for equal opportunity on the labour market between women and men in particular should be created. Inter alia, these include better educational and occupational guidance for a more balanced choice of profession, development of affordable and demand-led childcare or promotion of women’s re-entry into the labour market following family-related career breaks.

Looking ahead to the ongoing procedure

Estonia takes over the EU Presidency from Malta on 1st July 2017 and has announced that it will place the proposal as a priority item on the agenda for the informal session of the Employment Council in July 2017. Deliberations in the European Parliament will now also begin. There is not yet a firm timetable for the discussions.

Information about the text

drafted by: Brigitte De Vita and Martin Kumstel (BDA)

Martin Kumstel
+49 (0) 302033-1912

Brigitte De Vita
+32 (0)2792-1059