One of the deliverables of the European Pillar for Social Rights is the 'New Start' initiative to address the work-life balance challenges faced by working parents and carers. After the withdrawal of the Maternity Leave Directive, the Commission has decided to take a broader approach in order to address women's underrepresentation in the labour market.
This new initiative takes into account the developments in society over the past decade in order to enable parents and other people with caring responsibilities to better balance their work and family lives and to encourage a better sharing of caring responsibilities between women and men.
It is based on the results of the public consultation and two-stage social partner consultations and the analysis of the accompanying impact assessment. The Communication: An initiative to support Work-Life Balance for Working Parents and Carers sets out a comprehensive package of complementary legal and policy measures, which will reinforce each other.
The initiative aims at modernising the existing EU legal framework in the area of family-related leaves and flexible working arrangements. The proposal for a Directive on Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers includes:
The introduction of paternity leave. Fathers/second parents will be able to take at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child, compensated at least at the level of sick pay.
The strengthening of parental leave by making the 4 months period compensated at least at sick pay level and non-transferable from a parent to another. Parents will also have the right to request to take leave in a flexible way (part-time or in a piecemeal way) and the age of the child up to which parents can take leave will be increased from 8 to 12 years old.
The introduction of carers' leave for workers caring for seriously ill or dependent relatives. Working carers will be able to take 5 days per year, compensated at least at sick pay level.
The extension of the right to request flexible working arrangements (reduced working hours, flexible working hours and flexibility in place of work) to all working parents of children up to 12 and carers with dependent relatives.
In order to complement the legislative proposal, the initiative contains a set of non-legislative measures to support Member States in achieving our common goals. These include:
ensuring protection against discrimination and dismissal for parents (including pregnant women and workers coming back from a leave) and carers;
encouraging a gender-balanced use of family-related leaves and flexible working arrangements;
making better use of European funds to improve long-term and childcare services;
removing economic disincentives for second earners which prevent women from accessing the labour market or working full-time.
It is expected that this initiative will reap benefits for individuals, companies and the wider society. Parents and carers will profit from more work-life balance and the foreseen increase in women employment, their higher earnings and career progression will positively impact their and their families' economic prosperity, social inclusion and health. Companies will benefit from a wider talent pool and a more motivated and productive labour force, as well as less absenteeism. The rise in female employment will also contribute in addressing the challenge of demographic ageing and ensuring Member States' financial stability.
Access to social protection
The Commission is starting a consultation of social partners to define possible new rules in this area. Rights and obligations associated to social protection have been developed over time primarily for workers employed on standard contracts, whereas these have been insufficiently developed for people in self-employment and non-standard employment. Today's more flexible working arrangements provide new job opportunities especially for the young but can potentially give rise to new precariousness and inequalities. The Commission wants to explore ways of providing as many people as possible with social security cover, including self-employed and gig-economy workers. In practice, these people should also be able to build up rights against contributions
It aims to set new rights for all workers, particularly addressing insufficient protection for workers in more precarious jobs, while limiting burdens on employers and maintaining labour market adaptability.
The Commission is proposing that all workers in the EU should have the right to:
more complete information on the essential aspects of the work, to be received by the worker, in writing, at the latest on the first day on the job (rather than up to two months afterwards),
a limit to the length of probationary periods at the beginning of the job,
seek additional employment, with a ban on exclusivity clauses and limits on incompatibility clauses,
know a reasonable period in advance when work will take place, for workers with very variable working schedules determined by the employer, as in the case if on-demand work,
receive a written reply to a request to transfer to another more secure job,
receive cost-free the mandatory training that the employer has a duty to provide.
The proposal has a broad personal scope of application. It aims to ensure that these rights cover all workers in all forms of work, including those in the most flexible non-standard and new forms of work such as zero-hour contracts, casual work, domestic work, voucher-based work or platform work. It also comes with targeted provisions on enforcement, to make sure that workers in the workplace effectively benefit from these rights.
The revision of the Written Statement Directive
The Proposal for a Predictable Work Directive stems from the revision of the current Written Statement directive, which has existed since 1991 and gives employees starting a new job the right to be notified in writing of the essential aspects of their employment relationship.
The Commission's REFIT evaluation of the Directive showed that many workers in the EU do not receive a written confirmation of their working conditions or do not receive all the information they need in a timely manner.
Moreover, since 1991 the labour market has changed and new needs have emerged, as shown on the outcome of the consultation on the European Pillar of Social Rights. The new Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions would repeal the current Written Statement Directive.
Two-stage consultation of the social partners
As required by the EU Treaties, the Commission consulted trade unions and employers’ organisations in a two-stage approach:
to seek their views on the challenges identified by the Commission and whether they wished to launch negotiations for an autonomous agreement to tackle them. However, the views of the social partners on the need for legislation were mixed. Since they did not enter into negotiations to conclude an agreement at EU level, the initiative passed to the Commission to make a legislative proposal. Next stepsThe Commission proposal for a directive will now go the Council and the Parliament for negotiations under co-decision procedure.
Working Time Directive
The Commission presents the provisions of the Working Time Directive and the case-law of the Court that has interpreted them. Recent case law (for example on the carry-over of untaken paid annual leave) makes it appropriate to bring clarity on content and application.
Moreover, a minority of workers seems to consistently work over the 48-hour average weekly limit, sometimes for very excessive hours. Such behaviour not only disrupts the balance between work and family life but poses risks both for the workers themselves and for others (colleagues, service users).
The Commission has adopted a clarification of the Working Time Directive providing guidance on how to interpret various aspects of this directive, which will help Member States implement the acquis correctly and avoid further infringements.
The Commission also presents the Implementation report, in which it reviews the implementation of the Working Time Directive by Member States.