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Parental leave

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Parental leave

The European social partners have concluded a new Framework Agreement on parental leave. This Agreement extends the period of parental leave to four months for each parent. It applies to all workers and to all types of employment contract. It represents a means of better reconciling workers’ professional and parental responsibilities and of promoting equal treatment between men and women.


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 (Text with EEA relevance).


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 eight.

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 shall be granted for at least a period of four months. 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 four months of leave.

Taking of leave

The conditions of access to leave and adaptability of leave shall be defined by national law and/or collective agreements. For example, European Union (EU) States and/or social partners may:

  • adapt leave to the needs of parents and employers, by granting leave on a full-time or part-time basis, in a piecemeal way or in the form of a time-credit system;
  • make this right subject to a length of service qualification which shall not exceed one year. Where appropriate, that period shall be calculated taking account of all of the successive fixed-term contracts concluded with the same employer;
  • authorise the postponement of leave by the employer, for justifiable reasons related to 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 workers and of employers.

Each EU country shall also be encouraged 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 offer them 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:

  • shall be maintained as they stand until the end of the leave;
  • shall apply at the end of the leave, as shall all changes arising from national law, collective agreements and/or practice.

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

All matters regarding social security and income in relation to parental leave are for determination by EU States and/or national social partners. The Agreement does not therefore contain any stipulations concerning the payment of salary or compensation during parental leave.

Finally, 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 shall consider and respond to such requests, taking into account both employers’ and workers’ needs.

Leave on grounds of force majeure

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.


This Directive introduces the revised Framework Agreement concluded by the European social partners on 18 June 2009. This Agreement follows the Framework Agreement of 14 December 1995 on parental leave.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2010/18/EU



OJ L 68 of 18.3.2010

Last updated: 02.06.2010