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Parental leave

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Parental leave


Revised Framework Agreement between European social partners on parental leave – Council Directive 2010/18/EU



It implements the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by the European social partners on 18 June 2009.


Workers are entitled to parental leave on the birth or adoption of a child. Such leave may be taken until the child has reached an age determined by national law and/or collective agreements, but before the age of 8.

This Directive applies equally to all workers, men and women, irrespective of their type of employment contract (open-ended, fixed-term, part-time or temporary).

Parental leave must be granted for at least a period of 4 months as an individual right of both parents. In principle, workers should be able to take all of their leave. It should therefore not be transferable from one parent to the other. However, such transfers may be authorised on condition that each parent retains at least one of the 4 months of leave with a view to encourage a more equal uptake of parental leave by both parents. The Directive sets minimum standards, so that EU countries may apply or introduce more favourable provisions.

Taking of leave

The conditions of access to leave and the circumstances for taking leave are defined by national law and/or collective agreements. For example, EU countries and/or social partners may:

provide for the granting of leave on a full-time or part-time basis, in a piecemeal way or in the form of a time-credit system, taking into account both employers' and workers' needs;

make the right to parental leave subject to a length of service qualification which shall not exceed 1 year. Where applicable, that period shall be calculated taking account of all the successive fixed-term contracts concluded with the same employer;

define the circumstances under which the employer is authorised to postpone leave for justifiable reasons related to the operation of the organisation;

authorise special arrangements to ensure the proper operation of small undertakings.

Workers wishing to take parental leave must give notice to the employer. The period of notice shall be specified in each EU country taking into account the interests of both workers and employers.

The Directive also encourages EU countries and/or social partners to define additional measures and/or the specific conditions for the taking of leave by adoptive parents and parents of children with a disability or a long-term illness.

Return to work and non-discrimination

After taking parental leave, workers shall have the right to return to the same job. If that is not possible, the employer must provide them with an equivalent or similar job consistent with their employment contract or employment relationship.

In addition, rights acquired or in the process of being acquired by the worker on the date on which parental leave starts:

must be maintained as they stand until the end of the leave;

must apply at the end of the leave, as must all changes arising from national law, collective agreements and/or practice.

Similarly, workers must be protected against less favourable treatment or dismissal on the grounds of an application for, or the taking of, parental leave.

EU countries and/or the national social partners decide on all matters regarding social security and income in relation to parental leave. The Agreement does not therefore contain rules on the payment of salary or compensation during parental leave.

Lastly, on their return from leave, workers must be able to request changes to their working hours and/or patterns for a set period of time. Employers have to consider and respond to such requests, taking into account both employers’ and workers’ needs.

Leave on grounds of ‘force majeure’ (unforeseeable circumstances)

Workers may also request leave on grounds of force majeure for family reasons. Such leave may be requested in particular in cases of sickness or accident making the immediate presence of the worker within the family indispensable.


It entered in to force on 7 April 2010. EU countries had to incorporate it in national law by 8 March 2012.


This Agreement follows the Framework Agreement of 14 December 1995 on parental leave, which was given legal effect by Council Directive 96/34/EC.

It represents a means of better reconciling workers’ professional and parental responsibilities and of promoting equal treatment between men and women.

It is implemented, in accordance with Article 155(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, by a Council Directive.


Council Directive 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 implementing the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC and repealing Directive 96/34/EC (OJ L 68, 18.3.2010, pp. 13–20)

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2010/18/EU have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference only.

last update 09.11.2015