Work-life balance: Commission decides to refer BELGIUM, IRELAND AND SPAIN to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to fully transpose the Work-Life Balance Directive

Today, the European Commission decided to refer Belgium, Ireland and Spain to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to notify national measures fully transposing EU rights on Work-Life Balance for parents and carers (Directive (EU) 2019/158).

The Work-Life Balance Directive, adopted in 2019, is an important legislation which aims to enable working parents to better reconcile professional and private lives. It sets out minimum standards for paternity, parental and carers' leave as well as the right to request flexible working arrangements. The new rules are meant to help people develop their careers and family life without having to sacrifice either. The Directive allows working parents and carers to take leaves to care for relatives who need support.

The deadline for transposition of the provisions of the Work-life Balance Directive into national law was 2 August 2022. In September 2022, the Commission sent letters of formal notice to 19 Member States who had not communicated the complete transposition of the Directive. In April 2023, the Commission sent reasoned opinions to 11 Member States who were yet to notify full national transposition measures. These countries had two months to take the necessary measures to comply with the reasoned opinion. Belgium, Ireland and Spain have still not communicated transposition measures. Since the cases concern the failure to communicate transposition measures of a legislative directive, the Commission will ask the Court of Justice of the European Union to impose financial sanctions on those Member States.


The Directive on work-life balance, adopted in 2019, aims to both increase (i) the participation of women in the labour market and (ii) the take-up family-related leave and flexible working arrangements. Overall, women's employment rate in the EU is 10.8 percentage points lower that for men. Moreover, only 68% of women with care responsibilities work compared to 81% of men with the same duties. The Directive provides the following rights:

  • Paternity leave: Working fathers are entitled to at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child. Paternity leave must be compensated at least at the level of sick pay;
  • Parental leave: Each parent is entitled to at least four months of parental leave, of which two months is paid and non-transferable. Parents can request to take their leave in a flexible form, either full-time, part-time, or in segments;
  • Carers' leave: All workers providing personal care or support to a relative or person living in the same household have the right to at least five working days of carers' leave per year;
  • Flexible Working Arrangements: All working parents with children of up to at least eight years old and all carers have the right to request reduced working hours, flexible working hours, and flexibility in the place of work.

The Directive goes hand in hand with the European Care Strategy which aims to ensure quality, affordable and accessible care services across the European Union and improve the situation for both care receivers and the people caring for them, professionally or informally.

For More Information

Factsheet – New Work-Life Balance Rights

Press release - New rights to improve work-life balance in the EU

Website - Work-life balance

Website - Women's situation in the labour market

Eurostat - Statistics on Employment Rates by Sex, Age and Educational attainment level

Eurostat - Statistics on Part-time Employment as percentage of total employment

EU infringement procedure 

Infringement decisions database 

Link to November 2023 infringements package 

Infringement decision against Belgium (INFR(2022)0332)

Infringement decision against Ireland (INFR(2022)0370)

Infringement decision against Spain (INFR(2022)0355)