A new Directive, known as the Work Life Balance Directive, has been proposed to repeal the existing Framework Agreement on Parental Leave, made binding by Council Directive 2010/18/EU. In January 2019, the Presidency of the Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on some key elements of the proposal for a directive on work-life balance for parents and carers. This agreement still needs to be approved by member states.
The Work Life Balance Directive contains proposals with regards to paternity, parental and carers’ leave. All working parents with children up to at least eight years old and all carers will also be given the right to request flexible working arrangements including reduced working hours, flexible working hours and flexibility on the place of work.
The Work Life Balance Directive will give fathers 10 days of paternity leave which must be compensated for at the relevant sick pay level of the relevant Member State. This can be contrasted to the current legislation in Malta which only allows for one day of paternity leave.
A four-month parental leave as set out in the Parental Leave Directive, EU Directive 2010/18/EU, is confirmed in the Work Life Balance Directive. Two months out of this four-month leave period must be non-transferable between the parents and parents must be given the right to take the leave in a flexible manner, be it full time, part time or in a piecemeal way until the child is twelve years old. This means that Maltese law, will need to be updated. Maltese law currently allows for four months of unpaid parental leave which must be taken in periods of one month each and may be taken up until the child is eight years old.
Five days of leave are also to be made available to carers who provide personal care or support to a relative or person living in the same household. This is a new concept which will need to be transposed into Maltese law which currently does not include any similar concepts.
The aim of the Work Life Balance Directive is to create a better balance in the caring responsibilities between men and women which arise in the family life as well as to implement measures which allow for increased women’s participation in the labour market. One might argue that the increased leave entitlement, especially the paid leave entitlement, will affect the competitiveness of Maltese businesses given that annual vacation leave in Malta has been increased recently, however, one will have to await the final wording of the legislation to be able to assess what burdens will be imposed on the employers and how these will affect businesses.