Unpaid parental leave up to four months under EU rule

Parental leave could rise to four months if an EU framework agreement is applied in the UK.

The agreement to increase parental leave from three to four months across the EU was reached last week by the European social partners – representatives of employers, small businesses and trade unions.

The deal applies to “all workers, men and women who have an employment contract or employment relationship as defined by the law regardless of their type of contract – fixed term, part-time, temporary etc.”

The agreement also states that workers returning from parental leave have the right to return to the same job or to an equivalent position “consistent with their employment contract or employment relationship”. Protection against dismissal while on parental leave will also be beefed up, said the agreement.

Vladimir Spidla, the Czech EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, said; “The agreement proves that the European social partnership works and delivers concrete results for workers and companies in Europe. It shows a determination to find ways of improving the balance between family and working life.”

John Monks, European Trade Union Confederation general secretary and former TUC general secretary, said the agreement was a “significant step”.

But it could take up to three years for the agreement to be applied in member states. It will be examined by the European Commission which will then submit a proposal for the agreement to become a directive to the Council of Ministers, where it must be approved by a majority before it goes any further.

Parents in the UK are entitled to take up to 13 weeks unpaid parental leave for each child up to their fifth birthday and this can be spread over a five year period. This is an individual right so the leave cannot be transferred between partners.

Similar rules apply to those looking after adopted children.

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