Coface Families Europe

Family leaves

COFACE believes that a more family friendly workplace, in which the well-being and individual needs of workers are respected and taken into account, and in which leaves are not grounds for discrimination but rather a corner stone for a more inclusive and equal labour market, will contribute to higher employment rates for women, improved economic performance, reduced absenteeism, and ultimately contribute to economic growth.

For leave schemes relating to children (e.g. maternity, paternity and parental leaves..) the best interest of the child must be the guiding principle of policy making. Investing, protecting and promoting the well-being of children, including through appropriate leave provisions granted to parents, guardians or other relatives, is of ultimate importance.

Currently, only two types of leaves are regulated at European level: maternity leave and parental leave. COFACE is trying to get existing leave provisions improved, but is also lobbying for European legislation on paternity leave and carer’s leave.

Maternity leave is a break from employment taken by mothers just before and after child birth to protect maternal and infant health and safety. Maternity is regulated at the EU level. As maternity leave is a work related health and safety measure, the EU Pregnant Workers Directive (Directive 92/85/EEC) has set minimum provisions for maternity leave of 14 weeks at the level of sick pay. Current provisions in the Member States range from between 14 weeks and 52 weeks leave with compensation levels varying between the equivalent of sick pay to full pay.

Parental leave which is regulated at the EU level is offered to parents to be taken later in the child’s life – i.e. after maternity leave or later on (generally up to the age of 8). The revised EU Parental Leave Directive will give parents an individual right to 4 months of parental leave each, of which at least 1 month needs to be strictly non-transferable between parents (Directive 2010/18/EU). The revised Directive will have to be transposed by Member States before March 2012. It should be emphasized that both the initial Parental Leave Directive (Directive 96/34/EC) and its revised Framework Agreement (2010/18/EU) included provisions on urgent family leave (“force majeure”) as well as potential accommodating options for parents of sick and disabled children. Carers’ leave does not cover any of these provisions existing at the national level as a result of the implementation of the Parental Leave Directive and its Revised Framework Agreement.

Paternity leave is not currently regulated at the EU level. This is typically a rather short form of leave for fathers, to be taken immediately after a child is born, so that the father can spend time with and take care of the mother and child.

Carers’ leave is not currently regulated at the EU level. The conditions and provisions for carers’ leave vary considerably between Member States in terms of definition, length and compensation as well as eligibility criteria, age and medical condition of the relative being cared for.

Our complete policy position on leave provisions can be consulted here