Select Committee on Social Security Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Dr Sue Middleton, Centre for Policy Research (PL 1)



  This note is based on information collected from six countries in 1997 for an on-going project funded by the European Union. The countries are Austria; Germany, Greece, Norway, Portugal and the UK. The project aims to study the risk of poverty and social exclusion for people undergoing one of four transitions in their lives: from youth to adulthood; into lone parenthood; into ill-health and/or disability; and into retirement. The information below relates specifically to the support that lone parents might expect to receive from employers but applies generally to workers in these countries. Two types of support are identified. Parental leave, usually to care for young children, which is in addition to maternity leave; and special leave to care for children when they are sick.


  All countries in the study, with the exception of the UK, recognise workers' roles as parents by making statutory provision for parents to take leave to care for young or sick children in addition to maternity leave (Table 1). The extent of such provision varies significantly in terms of the length of parental leave allowed, the extent to which such leave is paid or unpaid, the conditions under which it is granted and, in the case of Greece, the size and sector of the organisation in which the employee works. Lone parents in all countries except Norway are treated exactly the same as each parent in a two parent family, with the result that lone parents are relatively disadvantaged in the total amount of leave available to the family. Nevertheless, lone parent workers in all countries except the UK do have some statutory recognition of their role as parents.

  This is not to say, of course, that statutory rights are fulfilled by employers in all these countries. Evidence from Greece and Portugal suggests that many employers ignore


Leave to care for sick child Parental Leave*Other provision

AustriaOne week paid per annum Up to 24 months. 18 months lone parents
Germany10 days per child per annum at 70 per cent gross wage Up to two years
Greece100+ employees Unpaid leave

1 child—6 days

2 children—8 days

3 or more children—10 days.


First child—Up to 2 years

Subsequent children—up to one year each

3 months each parent (6 months lone parent)+

4 days per annum paid leave to visit school
NorwayPaid leave.15 days per annum each parent for children under 12 years (30 days lone parent) Unpaid leave1 year each parent each child.

2 years lone parents+
Right to unpaid reduced working hours by
arrangement with employer
PortugalUnder 10 years—30 days per annum.

Over 10 years—15 days per annum.

Paid 65 per cent of average daily wage
Unpaid six months leave for child under 3 years old Right to flexible hours and part-time work for children under 12
UKNo national provision No national provisionNo national provision

  *following maternity leave.

  +Greece—conditional on one year's employment and can be refused if more than 8 per cent of workforce take parental leave in that year.

  +Norway—conditional on six months employment.

these provisions and that parents cannot afford to exercise their legal rights through the courts. Further, it cannot be assumed that employers in the UK do not allow their employees to take parental leave rather that, in line with the `liberal' character of the UK welfare regime, such matters are at the discretion of employers and subject to negotiation between employee and employer. Nevertheless, state recognition of workers' parenting roles is likely to assist parents who are in work at the time when they become lone parents to continue working. It might also encourage lone parents to return to work.

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