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EU Council extends parental leave
In March 2010, the Council of EU employment ministers adopted a directive extending workers' rights to parental leave.
The Council has adopted a directive extending workers' rights to parental leave from three to four months for each parent. At least one of the four months cannot be transferred to the other parent (i.e. it is lost if not taken), encouraging fathers to take the leave. Changes to national laws will be required in the UK, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Romania and Malta.
Currently, in Ireland, parental leave is 14 weeks.
The new directive seeks to better match professional and family life by promoting gender equality in the labour market. It implements the revised framework agreement on parental leave concluded by the social partners at European level. The new directive includes clarification that the existing Directive 96/34 covers all workers regardless of contractual status (e.g. fixed-term, part-time and temporary agency workers).
It is planned that the new directive will also provide for better protection against discrimination and ensure a smoother return to work. A worker applying for or taking parental leave must not be treated less favourably for doing so. When returning from parental leave, workers may request changes to their working hours for a limited period. Employers must consider and respond to such requests, taking into account both employers' and workers' needs.
Member states have two years in which to transpose the new directive into national law.