At this point, the European Parliament and the European Council have reached a provisional agreement, this provisional agreement now has to be formally adopted by both the European Parliament and the European Council.
The Directive on work-life balance sets a number of new or higher standards for parental, paternity and carer’s leave, and the right to request flexible working arrangements.
The European Commission decided to take a broader approach in addressing women’s under-representation in the labour market by encouraging a better sharing of caring responsibilities for children and relatives between men and women. These measures include:
- The introduction of paternity leave. Fathers and/or the equivalent second parents will be able to take at least ten working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child. The Paternity Leave shall be compensated at least at the level of national sick pay. This contrasts to the current legislation in force in Malta which provides for one day of paternity leave.
- The strengthening of the existing right to four months of parental leave. This is achieved by making two out of the four months non-transferable from one parent to another, and introducing compensation for these two months compensated at a level to be set by Member States. It is worth noting that parents will also have the right to request to take the leave in a flexible way (e.g. part-time or in a piecemeal manner). It is worth noting that Maltese legislation currently caters for four months parental leave, however, the four-month entitlement is all unpaid.
- An introduction of carers’ leave for workers providing personal care or support to a relative or person living in the same household. Working carers will be able to take five days per year. This concept is alien to Maltese employment legislation; therefore, it will need to be transposed into Maltese law.
- The extension of the existing 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 at least eight years old, and all carers.
It is worth noting that while in the case of paternal leave a minimum threshold of compensation has been established, in parental leave and carers’ leave, no European thresholds on payment have been established, leading to a lack of homogeneity in the levels of welfare. Finally, access to parental and paternity leave will be subject respectively to one year and six months of service with the employer.
At this stage, these measures are not enforceable, as the European bodies have so far only reached an agreement on the key elements of the proposed new directive on work-life balance, however, it is safe to state that the above-mentioned principles are set to be introduced once the directive is finalized and transposed into legislation.
As a concluding statement, one may argue that through the increased leave entitlement, especially the paid leave entitlement, the competitiveness of Maltese businesses may be affected, however, one would need to await the final wording of the legislation in order to be in a position to better assess which burdens will be imposed on the employers, and how or if these will affect businesses.
About the Author
The article has been authored by Dr Maria Tabone, Advocate at CSB Legal, who specialises in Employment Law and Company Law.