Parental Leave Isn’t Work, EU Court Tells Romanian Judge

(CN) – A Romanian judge failed Thursday to persuade the European Court of Justice that her months-long absence from work on parental leave should have been considered work so that she could also take paid annual leave.

Handed down this morning in Luxembourg, the ruling explains that judges and prosecutors in Romania are entitled to 35 days of paid annual leave, and that Maria Dicu took the full allotment in 2014 before finishing out the year on maternity leave.

Dicu was a judge at the regional court in Botosani, Romania, and the ruling says she took maternity leave from Oct. 1, 2014, to Feb. 3, 2015, followed by parental leave until Sept. 16, 2015, and then another 30 days of paid annual leave from Sept. 17 to Oct. 17, 2015.

Though Dicu’s employment was suspended in her lengthy absence, she attempted after her return to take off from work during the holiday season as well. Dicu asserted that she still had five days of paid annual leave but the Botosani Regional Court denied her request.

In support of its decision, the court pointed to a Romanian law that says the duration of paid annual leave is commensurate with the period of time actually worked.

Dicu filed suit to have her parental leave time considered as a period of actual work for the purpose of determining her paid annual leave entitlement for 2015.

After the regional court sided with Dicu, the Court of Appeal in Cluj put the case on hold to get input from the EU on the government’s appeal.

On Thursday, the European Court of Justice found that “the period of parental leave taken by the worker … cannot be treated as a period of actual work for the purpose of determining that worker’s entitlement to paid annual leave.”

Distinguishing parental leave from maternity leave, the ruling explains that the latter “is intended, first, to protect a woman’s biological condition during and after pregnancy and, second, to protect the special relationship between a woman and her child over the period which follows pregnancy and childbirth, by ensuring that the relationship is not disturbed by the need to perform multiple tasks which would result if the woman continued to work at the same time.”

The ruling also clarifies that “while, admittedly, a worker on parental leave remains, during that period, a worker for the purposes of EU law, the fact nonetheless remains that where, as in the present case, such a worker’s employment relationship is suspended pursuant to national law, … the reciprocal obligations of the employer and the worker as regards work and salary are correspondingly suspended temporarily, in particular the obligation on the latter to perform the duties required of him or her in connection with that relationship.”

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