In 2021, around 1.9 million women and men in Germany received parental allowance. The proportion of men receiving parental allowance has increased in recent years, rising to around 25%, compared to 21% in 2015. This makes it clear that men are taking more parental leave. However, the draft law implementing the Work-Life Balance Directive in Germany is unlikely to contribute to a further increase for the time being. The additional ‘paternity’ leave made possible by the Directive will not be introduced. Overall, employers will only have to prepare themselves for a limited number of changes to the previous legal situation. This is because the majority of the Directive’s provisions have already been implemented in Germany.
The Work-Life Balance Directive requires member states to implement minimum standards; see our Work-Life Balance Directive page for more details. The aim is to achieve equality between men and women in the workplace and on the labour market. It is also intended to make work and family life more compatible. Among other things, the intention is to help parents and caring relatives reconcile their family responsibilities and their work.
On 8 June 2022, a draft implementation law for Germany was passed by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ).
Part-time parental leave
With regard to parental part-time work, the draft stipulates that employers will have to give reasons if they reject applications for a reduction or adjustment of working time. This is intended to ensure more transparency. However, there will still only be an enforceable claim to parental part-time work under special conditions.
Protection against discrimination
According to the Directive, employees providing care will be protected more effectively against discrimination in the workplace. The draft gives the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency responsibility in relation to this. Carers will be able to turn to the Agency if they believe they are being discriminated against because they have applied for or claimed their rights as parents or care-giving relatives. As an alternative to this regulation, it would have been possible to include the provision of care services in the general protection against discrimination in the Equal Treatment Act. This would have provided further protection against direct and indirect discrimination, but was not implemented.
No additional ‘paternity’ leave
The entitlement in the Directive to (at least) two weeks’ paid leave for the partner on the occasion of the birth of a child was not implemented in the German draft. According to the Work-Life Balance Directive, an entitlement to ‘paternity’ leave for fathers or equivalent second parents would have to be introduced, with a close time connection to the birth (or adoption). Currently German law grants an entitlement to parental leave, which can also be taken immediately after the birth, but no additional leave entitlement shortly before or after the birth.
If this extra ‘paternity’ leave is introduced in the future, employers will be keen to find out who would pay. The Directive stipulates that the time off must be paid at least at the equivalent level to sick pay. Who pays the bill for this is left up to the member states. There is a lot to be said for implementing this as a compensation payment funded by the health insurance funds, similar to the maternity leave regulations.
The ‘paternity’ leave provision in the Work-Life Balance Directive will not be implemented in Germany for now. Overall, the draft that has been passed is limited to what is strictly necessary, including in relation to protection against discrimination. That means that for the time being, employers in Germany do not have to prepare for far-reaching changes. Given the framework conditions that are already in place in Germany – which even exceed the minimum requirements in the Directive with regard to carers – only limited changes are noteworthy. Since we can assume that employees will make increasing use of their parental and caring leave rights in the future, the issue is likely to remain a key one for employers.
For more information about time off work