Employee leave (: work-life balance for parents and caregivers)
The new labor law (Law 4808/2021), its regulations and the need for a fresh perspective in labor relations concern all of us, even before its enactment. Even more so today. Reasonably, one could note, as the legislator’s view of labor relations and (until recently) labor law differs significantly. Part of the new law refers to employee leave. It expands some of the existing ones and institutionalizes new ones. Most important, in terms of their social value, are those concerning the institution of the family. Particularly important are those that aim to help balance the work and personal lives for parents and caregivers. In this article we will mainly deal with the latter. In the next article we will deal with the arrangements for the employees’ leave related to the protection of the family.
Dealing with stereotypes between men and women
The regulations for the leaves of Chapter A’ are those that were established within the framework of Directive 2019/1158 / EU. They aim at tackling stereotypes in professions & the roles of men and women; they also tackle discrimination.
The establishment (and the specific provisions) of a minimum level of protection of employees seeks, in the medium term, the strengthening of women’s employment. Also, the institution of the (“in a broad sense”) family. These goals are achieved through arrangements that allow (and improve) the coexistence of professional and private life. Also, through the effective implementation of the principle of equality between men and women, so that they have equal opportunities to access the labor market.
In this context, incentives are introduced, so that men also take on more family responsibilities (eg the introduction of remuneration for, until recently, unpaid employee leave). Provisions are taken to protect the employment of men (eg protection of the father from dismissal, in accordance with the protection of the mother-article 66 §1 cc’). The Independent Authority of the Ombudsman is designated as the competent National Body for the monitoring and promotion of the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women (article 32).
A number of facilities are also introduced to working parents and caregivers who provide care to relatives or cohabitants with significant health problems.
The new law (: article 27) significantly extends paternity leave. Instead of the previous two days, the father to be is now entitled to fourteen (14) days leave. This leave is paid and is provided, without conditions, due to the birth of a child – its duration exceeds ten days, which is set as a minimum duration by the aforementioned Directive. At the same time, a flexible way of distributing it is being introduced. The father to be is entitled to take two days off before the expected date of birth, while the remaining twelve, in total or in part, within thirty days from the date of birth. Alternatively: all fourteen days are taken within the thirty days to follow the birth.
However, in order to safeguard the smooth operation of the business, the employee notifies the employer, in a timely manner, of the probable day of delivery. The notification may take place in writing, electronically or in any other way serving the parties (: No. 47972 / 07.07.2021 Circular of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs).
The corresponding regulations also apply in case of adoption and fostering of a child up to eight (8) years old in the family-from his / her inclusion in it.
Its duration and subsidy
The duration of the parental leave of working parents and those exercising parental care is set (: article 28) at four (4) months. It can be taken continuously or in installments, until the child turns eight years old. Time of commencement of this leave is the birth of the child or (in case of adoption or fostering) its integration into the family.
This leave was provided, according to the provisions previously in force, as unpaid (article 50 § 3 of law 4075/2012). Law 4808/2021-for the first time, already provides for its subsidy. For a period of two months (out of a total of four) a monthly allowance equal to the sum of the minimum statutory salary and the ratio of holiday gifts and leave allowance is paid by the Manpower Employment Organization. For the remaining period, it is inferred – from the letter of the law – that it is up to the employee and employer to pay any wages (: § 9 in fine).
Parental leave is not unconditional. The beneficiary is required to have completed one year of work with the same employer. Either continuously or on the basis of successive fixed-term employment contracts (subject to any more favorable arrangements). In the case of several children, the right to parental leave is independent for each of them. However, after the expiry of the leave granted for the previous child, a period of one year of actual employment with the same employer must take place (here too, subject to more favorable arrangements). At the same time, in the case of multiple children, the right to leave concerns each child separately. However, the subsidy from Manpower Employment Organization is paid for four months, regardless of the number of children born.
Special arrangements for single-parent families
The new law also introduces special regulation for special categories of single-parent families. It provides, in particular, that single parents, due to death, total removal of parental care or non-recognition of the child by the other parent, are entitled to twice the parental leave provided and to twice the Manpower Employment Organization allowance.
In case of co-service of both parents
In the case of employment of both parents by the same employer, with a joint statement, they specify the order in which they will receive their leave and its duration.
In case of a fixed-term contract
The expiration of a fixed-term contract marks the termination of a parental leave. It can, however, continue either under the same employer (after renewal or extension of the fixed-term contract) or under a different employer (after completing one year from the start of the new employment contract.
Replacement with reduced working hours or part-time employment
Parental leave can be provided in another flexible way (eg reduced working hours or part-time employment) depending on the employee’s request and the company’s capabilities. This request must be submitted (in writing or electronically) at least one month in advance – with the exception of exceptional reasons. The employer, respectively, is obliged to process the request in the requested time, as long as the smooth operation of the company is not seriously disturbed. In any case, however, the employer is obliged to grant the requested leave within two months of the request. At the same time, priority is set in granting relevant leave in special cases. Any refusal of the employer must be substantiated in writing.
Time of Insurance
The parental leave is posted on the ERGANI platform. As for the insurance of the employee for the duration of the leave, the following are pointed out. The time of the two months of the subsidy from the Manpower Employment Organization is considered as insured. For the two non-subsidized months – and if the payment of salaries has not been agreed – partial insurance coverage is provided. Full coverage becomes possible, after acknowledging the time of absence.
Upon expiration of the parental leave, the employee returns to the same or an equivalent or relevant position. Clearly, on the same terms. At the same time, they benefit from any improvements that, rightfully, would be due to them.
The granting of this leave does not, of course, justify discrimination against the beneficiaries. The specific employees, in their absence, are informed about any promotions and vacancies. Also, the time of absence is considered as service time for the calculation of remuneration, the granting of annual leave and related allowance, the professional development and the dismissal compensation.
This leave (: Article 26) is granted to employees who provide care or support to a relative (as defined in Article 26 f΄) or a cohabitant who needs significant care or support for a serious medical reason (for the definition of caregiver: article 26 par. f). This need must be confirmed by a relevant medical opinion. The purpose of this provision is to prevent exits from the labor market of employees who carry specific, increased, family burdens.
The condition for granting this leave is the completion of six months of employment (continuous or on the basis of successive fixed-term employment contracts) with the same employer.
The duration of the caregiver leave is five working days for each calendar year. It is provided without remuneration (see also Circular No. 47972 / 07.07.2021 of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs), despite the different provisions of the relevant bill and its explanatory memorandum.
Absence from work due to force majeure
Law 4808/2021 provides for the possibility of obtaining a leave for reasons of force majeure (article 30). This leave is granted to parents or caregivers in cases of force majeure related to emergency family matters (illness or accident). Illness or accident must be confirmed by a medical opinion of a hospital or of a treating physician. The duration of this leave is up to one day at a time and two days, in total, per year. It is provided with remuneration, although this is not required by Directive 2019/1158 / EU. It is pointed out that this leave is granted in addition to other absences of the employee due to an event not caused by them (: 657 and 658 of the Civil Code).
Flexible regulations for parents and caregivers
Parents of children up to twelve (12) years of age or caregivers have the right (Article 31) to request, for their convenience, flexible working arrangements (in particular teleworking, reduced employment hours, part-time work). A prerequisite is the completion of six months of employment (continuously or through successive fixed-term employment contracts), at the same employer.
The employer must consider and process any relevant request within a month. Any rejection or postponement of its processing must be documented.
At the end of the limited period of any flexible arrangements, the employee returns to the same position and form of work that they previously held. However, they reserve the right to return to the same or equivalent job and earlier than the agreed date, if the data have changed. The relevant application is subject to the approval of the employer.
It is true that female employees are subjected (and on a practical level) to a number of discriminations in their workplace – and not just in our country. Much more so are the mothers.
The arrangements for the above employee leave are, and rightly so, aimed at removing the relevant discriminations, addressing the (existing) stereotypes between men and women, achieving the (necessary) work-life balance for parents and caregivers, and assisting, ultimately, the functioning of the family — in a broad sense.
These arrangements are a bold step compared to what used to be the case. Not, possibly, entirely satisfactory but, in any case, capable of providing a basis for references to a State with a “social face”.
However, we will get a clearer picture of this issue in the next article, which concerns the arrangements for the leaves related to the (absolutely necessary – in any case) protection of the family.
P.S. A brief version of this article has been published in MAKEDONIA Newspaper (September 19th, 2021).
Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is not (and is not intended to) constitute legal advice. Legal advice can only be offered by a competent attorney and after the latter takes into consideration all the relevant to your case data that you will provide them with. See here for more details.