Work-Life Balance | New EU regulation

Helena Braga Marques and Joana de Sá write about the Work-life Balance Initiative, one of the deliverables of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

One of the deliverables of the European Pillar of Social Rights is the Work-life Balance Initiative, which addresses the work-life balance challenges faced by working parents and carers.

Following the withdrawal of the Maternity Leave Directive, the European Commission decided to take a broader approach in addressing women's underrepresentation in the labour market, and the Council adopted, a Directive on Work-Life Balance for parents and carers which aims to increase the participation of women in the labour market and the take-up of family-related leave and flexible working arrangements.

Work-life balance policies intent to contribute to the achievement of gender equality by promoting the participation of women in the labour market, the equal sharing of care responsibilities between men and women, and closing gender gaps in earnings and pay.

The Work-life Balance Directive introduces a set of legislative actions designed to modernise the existing EU legal and policy frameworks, with the aims of:

  • better supporting a work-life balance for parents and carers,
  • encouraging a more equal sharing of parental leave between men and women, and
  • addressing women’s underrepresentation in the labour market.

As main elements of the Directive we have:

  • paternity leave - fathers or second parents will be able to take at least 10 working days of leave around the time of birth of a child paid at a level equal to that currently set at EU level for maternity leave (in line with article 11 of Council Directive 92/85/EEC). The right to paternity leave will not be subject to a prior service requirement. However, the payment of paternity leave can be subject to a six-month prior service requirement. Member states with more generous parental leave systems will be able to keep their current national arrangements;
  • parental leave - an individual right to 4 months of parental leave, from which 2 months are non-transferable between the parents and are paid. The level of payment and the age limit of the child will be set by member states;
  • carers' leave - a new concept at EU level for workers caring for relatives in need of care or support due to serious medical reasons. Carers will be able to take 5 working days per year. Member states may use a different reference period, allocate leave on a case-by-case basis, and may introduce additional conditions for the exercise of this right;
  • flexible working arrangements - the right for parents to request these arrangements has been extended to include working carers.




  • No minimum standards for paternity leave at EU level.
  • Working fathers will be able to take at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child.
  • Paternity leave will be compensated at least at the level of sick pay.

  • At least 4 months per parent, out of which 1 month is non-transferable between parents.
  • No minimum rules on allowance/payment.
  • Parents can request to take the leave in flexible forms (full-time, part-time or in a piecemeal way).
  • The 2 non-transferable months of parental leave will be compensated at a level set by Member States.

  • No minimum standards for carers at EU level (except “force majeure” allowing to take short time off for imperative and unexpected family reasons).
  • All workers will have the right to 5 working days of carers’ leave per year.
Working Arrangements
  • Right to request reduced and flexible working hours upon return from parental leave.
  • Right to request part-time work for all workers.
  • All working parents with children up to at least 8 years old and all carers will have the right to request the following flexible working arrangements:
  1. reduced working hours
  2. flexible working hours
  3. flexibility on the place of work.

We have no doubt that this new legislation will benefit individuals, companies and all the society.

  • Parents and carers will profit from a better work-life balance. Moreover, the foreseen increase in women’s 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 from less absenteeism. The rise in women’s employment will also contribute to addressing the challenge of demographic ageing and ensuring Member States' financial stability.

The Directive, which was passed by the European Parliament in April 2019, entered into force on 1 August 2019. Member States now have three years to adopt the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive.

Helena Braga Marques | Partner | helena.bragamarques@pra.pt
Joana de Sá | Partner | joana.sa@pra.pt