The enter into force of the directive on work-life balance for parents entered into force on 1 August, aiming to allow couples to share parental leave.

Since the entry into force, the EU member states have a maximum of three years to apply the EU law that sets minimum requirements, giving each parent at least 4 months of parental leave, out of which two months are non-transferable between them. The two non-transferable months of parental leave will be compensated at a level set by each country.

While the new rules on non-transferable parental leave is considered as an important step forward in persuading more fathers to spend time with their new-born children, the directive also introduces paternity leave of at least 10 days after the birth of the child, compensated at least at the level of sick pay.

Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s First Vice-President expressed hope that the rules will strengthen gender equality: “A fair and sustainable Europe means giving women and men the right to play an equal role at home and in the workplace,” said the Dutch politician on the legislative text that forces member states to set the payment or allowance for the minimum non-transferable period of parental leave at an adequate level.

As all countries offer some form of parental leave following the birth of a child the large variations remain in terms of the leave length, compensation levels and whether leave is a family or individual right. Just 17 member states already meet the minimum of 2 weeks’ paternity leave at the time of the child’s birth. However, of these countries, only 13 offer two weeks of well-paid paternity leave. Well paid is defined as at least 66 % of previous earnings.

The directive was proposed by the European Commission already in April 2017 but only in January 2019 was a political agreement found between the European Parliament and the European Council.