The intention of the framework agreement on parental leave as negotiated between the social partners in 1995 is to facilitate the reconciliation of parental and professional life and to encourage fathers to play a more active role in the care and upbringing of their children by providing a right to parental leave of at least three months.

What was new for many countries was that the agreement applies to all workers with an employment contract or employment relationship in the public or private sector, irrespective of the size of the enterprise. Furthermore it applies to both men and women. The agreement gives both fathers and mothers the right to parental leave of at least three months on the grounds of the birth or adoption of a child until a given age or up to eight years of age. This right is non-transferable between the parents.

Workers on parental leave are protected against dismissal. The rights they acquired before going on leave are maintained and they have the right to return to the same job or a similar one after their leave.

It is left to the Member States to decide on the following points:

  • whether the leave is granted part-time, full-time, in a piecemeal way or in the form of a time-credit system;
  • if the entitlement is subject to a certain service period – this period cannot exceed one year;
  • to introduce special arrangements for adoption;
  • to specify the beginning and end of a notice period;
  • to define the circumstances under which an employer may – but only for justifiable reasons – postpone the demand;
  • special arrangements for SMEs;
  • whether the parental leave is paid or not.

Furthermore, the agreement foresees a right to take time off for reasons of force majeure: urgent family reasons in cases of sickness or accident where the immediate presence of the workers is required. This right is not limited to children but applies in general to any person in need of care. National law might limit time off to a certain number of times per year and/or a certain number of cases.

The agreement was transposed into a Directive (96/34/EC).