EU unveils new rights on parental leave and the gig economy

Work Life Balance


The European Union has today unveiled a raft of new social and employment rights, including rights to paid parental leave and new protections for gig economy and zero-hours contract workers.

The EU Pillar of Social Rights includes a “New start to support Work-Life Balance for parents and carers” initiative which proposes “legislative and policy actions aiming to facilitate the uptake of parental leave by both women and men, to introduce paternity leave and carers’ leave, to promote the use of flexible working arrangements, as well as to provide more and better child and other care facilities and remove economic disincentives such as tax-benefit disincentives, which discourage second-earners, often women, from entering the labour market”. The initiative proposes a right to at least 10 days’ paid paternity leave, a right to four months of parental leave paid at the equivalent of sick pay, to be taken any time until the child reaches the age of 12, and five days of paid leave for carers. It also gives parents across the EU the right to request flexible working arrangements.

The European Commission will prepare a follow-up report on progress made by Member States on the issue of equal pay and has proposed a Directive aimed at further ensuring greater equality among management positions in the corporate sphere.

The Commission says the European Institute for Gender Equality, one of the EU’s decentralised agencies, is supporting the work of the Commission, Member States and social partners in the area of work-life balance.

Other areas covered in the Pillar of Social Rights include the provision of assistance to find work and to engage in self employment as well as protections for those in precarious employment, including the right to a written statement of pay and conditions when starting a new job. The Commission has also launched a consultation on new protections for people in atypical work, like the gig economy.

The announcement has been criticised by campaigners who believe the new rights don’t go far enough and BusinessEurope, the EU employers’ federation, which says they are unaffordable and “ill-conceived”.

The TUC says the new rights are “a reminder that a bad Brexit deal will mean a worse deal at work for British workers compared to EU workers”.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These are welcome proposals to improve the lives of working people.

“The EU looks set to give zero-hours contract and gig economy workers new rights. Parents will get a right to paid parental leave. And bad bosses will be stopped from exploiting migrant workers to undercut local workers.

“The big question for the party leaders is whether they will make sure Britain’s workers benefit too.

“The next government must guarantee a level playing field after Brexit. When EU rights improve, UK rights must improve too. And it must be written into the Brexit deal. Otherwise hardworking Brits will miss out on new protections that EU workers get.”

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