The aim of this review is to provide evidence of the expected costs and benefits incurred by six reforms envisaged by the European Commission (EC): (i) the introduction of a carers’ leave; (ii) the introduction of a paternity leave; (iii) the introduction of a paid parental leave; (iv) the introduction of a father’s quota; (v) the introduction of EU-wide breastfeeding provisions at work; and (vi) the extension of flexible and part-time work arrangement.
The boundaries between these different types of interventions tend to blur and various categories of leave may overlap or be substitutable. Long maternity leave, as in the UK, functions de facto like parental leave in other countries. Alternatively, parental leave may constitute an extension of maternity or paternity leave, with both being paid in the same way as wage compensation, or be separate when it is unpaid. The distinction between maternity and paternity leave also tends to be blurred in some countries, especially in the case of post-natal leave. Parental leave is also no longer restricted to infants. It may often be taken in a flexible and staggered fashion and long after the initial paternity/maternity leave, when the child is older, or when adopting a child. It may also function as leave to care for a sick child.
In the interests of clarity, this report considers each reform separately – despite the above-mentioned overlaps. In order fully to understand the complete picture of parental leave, it is important to keep in mind that the whole range of provisions in a particular country may be combined, shared between parents or follow on from one another chronologically.