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Securing a better work-life balance for working parents has moved a step forward last year when MEPs voted in favour today of the agreement reached by the Council and the Parliament on the Work-Life Balance Directive.

The law, informally agreed with EU ministers, and adopted by MEPs with 490 in favour, 82 against and 48 abstentions, sets minimum requirements for all member states, in a bid to boost women’s representation in the workplace and strengthen the role of a father or an equivalent second parent in the family. This would benefit children and family life, whilst reflecting societal changes more accurately, and promoting gender equality. It would also update the minimum standard on parental leave, keeping the existing individual right of four months but with two non-transferable months, with at least 1.5 months to be paid at a level set by the member state concerned.

The directive would introduce an individual right to carers’ leave, previously not recognised at EU level. It would also extend the right to request flexible working arrangements for parents until the child is at least eight years old, as well as for carers. Parents and carers could ask, for example, for flexible working hours or working patterns and for the right to work remotely.

“We are delighted to see this happening as we have been lobbying for this for four years since Employmum/Employflex was born,” Karen O’Reilly, Founder of Employmum and Employflex said.

“With over 4,500 professionals registered with us, we have a unique insight as to what women in particular want in the workplace and flexibility is top of their wish list.

“Flexible work can mean a variety of different options and is something employers should not be afraid of – the types of flexible work can be part-time/remote work/job share/compressed hours/annualised hours/full time with flexible hours.

“Savvy companies are also coming to the table to talk about flexibility in the workplace as they realise that by offering flexibility, they can obtain and retain the best people in the current war for talent.

“We would love to see this directive extended to everyone in the workplace, not just parents and carers (30% of our current placements are male and non-parent, which is shy we have also launched Employflex) Flexible work is the future of work and companies who are not embracing this at the moment will suffer.”

“This directive invests in bringing about more gender equality and a better division of responsibilities. Women have suffered from lack of equality leading to difference in salaries and a pension gap. Now they will be supported to enter the labour market and reach their full potential, while fathers will have a bigger role in their children’s upbringing. This directive benefits also family members taking care of an older generation. It is good for men, women, families and the economy.” David Casa, MEP

Next steps

Member states will have to comply with the rules within three years. This directive has the power to change the landscape of #flexiblework in Ireland and beyond.