For the first time, the European Commission presented in the Council Working Party on Social Questions the framework agreement on parental leave, which has been agreed by the European social partners. The discussions will now begin behind closed doors. It has, however, emerged from informed circles that the negotiations are more difficult than originally expected.
The objective of the new Parental Leave Directive is the promotion of a more balanced use of the parental leave by both parents. The European social partners have therefore agreed among others that one of the four months of the parental leave will not be transferrable. Experience has shown that the fact that the parental leave is non-transferrable can act as a positive incentive for fathers to make use of it – actually a relatively simple and intelligible regulation. Apparently, however, this is not the case for all Member States, as some do not understand or do not want to understand the “non”-transferability aspect. That much is clear, the new Directive will entail amendments to nationalistic regulations and the new regulations will replace the old ones.

The Swedish Presidency actually did not expect a lot of opposition from the 27 Member States taking part in the first meeting of the Council working party. The Swedes had planned to conclude the dossier without great discussion under their Presidency. This, however, has proven to be a false hope and the plan of the Swedes might fail because of the opposition of some Member States. Another fact is that the Commission presented a proposal to the Parental Leave Directive, which, however, was only negotiated by the European social partners. This means that the Commission will have a struggle on its hands to explain what it has not been the originator of. Because the Member States want of course answers to their questions during the meetings of the Council working party. Whether the Commission will be able to deliver (these) remains to be seen. This is added by the fact that the Council is not able to alter the core of the agreement - not an everyday situation, which represents a peculiarity of the European regulatory procedure. The Council has only the right to accept or reject the agreement on the Parental Leave Directive. The European Parliament will only be informed and has no right to exercise legal influence - this is just denied to it - not an easy situation for Council, Commission and European Parliament.

One can only hope that the revision of the first agreement on this subject, which originates from 1995, will be approved of by the Member States, so that there will be reactions to new social aspects and changes and that the Directive can come into effect by 2011 as planned.

Further information:

Proposal on Parental Leave Directive