Recent Developments in Europe on Time Off Requirements
Europe is witnessing a lot of developments in terms of leave benefits available to employees. Read on as we briefly cover the changes in the respective European countries.
On 4 April 2022, the European Parliament plenary adopted a new Directive (EU) 2019/1158 on Reconciling Family Life and the Professional Life of Parents and Caregivers (the Directive), which will repeal the existing Framework Agreement on Parental Leave made binding by Council Directive 2010/18/EU (the Parental Leave Directive).
The Directive aims to encourage a more equal sharing of parental leave between men and women, address women’s underrepresentation in the labor market, and better support a work-life balance for parents and carers and hence sets minimum requirements for all Member States. The main novelties introduced by the Directive are:
- Minimum of 10 working days paternity leave paid at the level of sick pay
- The Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that each employee has an individual right to four months’ parental leave (of which 2 months (9 weeks) shall be non-transferable paid parental leave) to be taken before the child reaches a certain age, at most eight years, to be specified for each Member State or by collective agreements.
- 5 days of annual carer’s leave.
Member States are required to adjust the Labour Code according to the new rules under the Directive by August 2, 2022. Member States may introduce new or maintain existing provisions that are more favorable to employees than those laid down in this Directive. Under the provisions on parental leave, it is up to the Member State to determine the benefits and allowance for the 2 months of parental leave. The Directive provides a two-year extension for the Member States to implement the entire duration of paid parental leave. For example, Ireland has increased its paid paternity leave to 7 weeks as of July 1, 2022, and in accordance with the Directive is in the process of implementing the final 2 weeks within the next 2 years. Ireland expects to meet these deadlines.
So far only Greece, Austria, Estonia, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark have implemented the Directive. Several countries like Sweden, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Bulgaria, and Croatia are in the process of implementing the Directive by August 2, 2022.
Amendments to Paternity Leave
Currently, the Paternity Leave duration in Belgium is 15 days. The first 3 days of leave are paid by the employer; the remainder is paid by social security.
From January 1, 2023, leave for fathers (and co-parents) will be increased to 20 days. These can be taken separately or consecutively, as well as split into 40 half-days. During the paternity or birth leave, self-employed fathers are entitled to paternity allowance (and co-parents to birth allowance), set at €91.03 for a whole day and at €45.52 for a half-day – according to the current index.
The Parliament after an agreement between the Danish Trade Union Confederation and the Confederation of Danish Employers has proposed an expansion of paternity and maternity leave. This proposal was implemented based on the Directive that requires all member states to provide a minimum of 9 weeks of earmarked parental leave to each parent by August 1, 2022.
Currently, Denmark provides 32 total weeks of paid leave to be shared between the two parents.
The new proposal goes beyond the minimums imposed by the Directive. It specifically shall provide the following changes –
- 4 weeks of pregnancy leave for the mother before the birth of the child;
- 2 weeks of earmarked maternity and paternity leave for each parent;
- 8 weeks of transferable maternity and paternity leave for each parent which must be used by the partner before the child’s first birthday;
- 9 weeks of earmarked parental leave for each parent; and
- 5 weeks of transferable parental leave to be taken before the child’s ninth birthday.
This breakdown amounts to 24 weeks of leave per parent, 13 of which are transferable, for a total of 48 weeks of leave combined.
Currently, the family leaves in Finland consist of the mother’s maternal allowance period (105 working days or approximately 4.2 months) which starts before the child’s estimated date of birth, and the father’s paternal allowance period (54 working days or approximately 9 weeks) and the parental allowance period which may be taken by one of the parents or shared between the parents (158 working days or approximately 6.3 months).
The Finnish Parliament has recently adopted many legislative changes to confirm a wider reform of the Finnish family leaves system. The reform entails changes in the Finnish Health Insurance Act, the Contracts of Employment Act, and the Early Childhood Education and Care Act. The changes to family leave will come into force on August 1, 2022, and are presumed to impact families residing in Finland with a child’s estimated date of birth is September 4, 2022, or later.
The family leave reform will give both parents a quota of 160 parental allowance days. Parents will be allowed to transfer up to 63 parental allowance days of this quota to the other parent, other custodians, their spouse, or the spouse of the other parent.
For female employees in the final stage of pregnancy, there will be a pregnancy allowance period of 40 daily allowance days. There will be six daily allowance days per week. All in all, allowance days for parents during family leaves will amount to more than 14 months. Single parents will have the right to use the quotas of both parents.
Parents can use parental allowance days until the child reaches the age of two. Daily allowance days can be used in several parts. Parents in employment relationships will be entitled to split the leave up into four parts.
Sick Leave Bill
Currently, there is no sick leave law in Ireland. If employers wish to provide sick leave to employees, they can do so via a collective agreement. Employers in Ireland do not have to pay employees during time off due to illness. An employee whose employer does not provide paid sick leave can apply for Illness Benefit.
However, following an announcement by the government in June 2021 of plans to establish a statutory sick pay (SSP) scheme, a draft Sick Leave Bill was published on November 5, 2021. Once it’s been enacted, the statutory sick pay scheme will be rolled out in four years and the scheme is due to come into force later in 2022.
Once enacted this year, in accordance with the new legislation, employers shall be obliged to provide a minimum number of paid sick days annually. Both full and part-time employees can avail of paid leave under the scheme, which will be rolled out in four phases.
Employees will be entitled to a rate of 70% of usual daily earnings up to €110 a day for 3 days. In 2024, this rises to 5 days of paid leave, before increasing again in 2025 (7 days) and 2026 (10 days). The eventual 10 days or two working weeks, of sick pay per year, will be in addition to other leave entitlements including annual leave, parental and maternity leave as well as public holidays.
Currently, parents can take 26 weeks of unpaid parental leave in the first eight years of their child’s life.
On April 20, 2021, the bill on Paid Parental Leave was approved by the House of Representatives. Under this bill, both parents will be entitled to 9 weeks of paid parental leave in the child’s first year of life as of August 2, 2022.
In accordance with the amendment to the provision of parental leave, parents shall be reimbursed 70% of the income (the amount of the paid parental leave will be 70% of an employee’s daily wage during parental leave, up to 70% of the maximum daily wage) for the first 9 weeks, which must be taken in the first year of the child’s life. The other 17 weeks will remain unpaid and can be taken up to the child’s 8th birthday.
A recent draft Act amending the Labour Code provides for the introduction into the Polish labor law new solutions concerning employment, and also introduces the provisions of granting paid parental leave benefits which shall be effective August 2, 2022.
Parental Leave for Father
Currently, Poland offers 14-day paternity leave upon the birth of a child. In accordance with the Polish Labor Code, the employee (mother or father) has the right to a parental leave of up to 32 weeks in the case of the birth of one child in one delivery, and up to 34 weeks in the case of the birth of two or more children in one delivery. There is no exclusive paid parental leave for the father.
Post the amendment, employees shall be entitled to 2 months of paid parental leave exclusively for the father, it will not be transferable to the mother and any unused leave will be lost. Furthermore, the father shall be provided an option to take the whole parental leave (4 months) if the child’s mother is not entitled to it (e.g., no employment contract).
Unpaid Nursing Leave
A new unpaid nursing leave has been introduced into the labor regulations of 5 days to provide personal care or support to a person who is a relative of the employee (son, daughter, mother, father, or spouse) or who lives in the same household and who requires substantial care or support because of serious medical reasons.
Shorter Duration to take Paternity Leave
Currently the duration of paternity leave within which the employee’s father is required to take paternity leave of 2 weeks within a span of 24 months.
Effective August 2, 2022, the period within which a father raising a child or who has adopted a child can take unpaid paternity leave (2 weeks) will be shortened to 12 months.
The Spanish Cabinet on May 10, 2022, approved a draft law that grants female employees the right to take paid sick leave due to severe menstrual pain. If Parliament also approves the bill, Spain would become the first European country with such a law. Employees shall be able to draw from the sick leave that they are entitled to, as menstrual leave shall be considered a temporary incapacity to work. This would cover, for example, related diseases, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovaries, which would prevent women from working normally.
This incapacity would operate subject to a medical report and will allow a woman to stay at home for a few hours of her working day, or for a few days if the pain of her period prevents her from working.
Similar developments in time off regulations are proposed in the United Kingdom as well. On 15 July 2022, the Government announced that it was backing the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill. The Bill, if passed, will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in addition to other parental leave entitlements such as maternity, paternity, and shared parental leave. If passed, the new rights are not expected to come into force until sometime in 2024 or 2025 and will apply in England, Wales, and Scotland.
Member states across the EU are taking steps to comply with the Directive. Employers with operations and/or employees throughout the EU should be aware of these changes at the EU and at the member state level to ensure compliance with all applicable requirements. Employers can prepare for upcoming changes by proactively reviewing their current policies and identifying areas that will require updates.