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According to the recent publication of the ETUI "Benchmarking Working Europe 2023. Europe in transition - Towards sustainable resilience,"[1] published last March, Europe is at the crossroad of four transitions which impact the livelihood of European workers: a green and technological transition, an economic policy transition and a geopolitical transition.

Education for workers and their representatives has a crucial role during these transition periods. It should provide workers and trade union representatives the necessary knowledge,  skills, and attitudes to adapt to these multiple transitions and, ultimately,  become actors in them.

Meanwhile workers and their representatives need time to participate in education.

Paid educational leave represents this means for them to be granted time off for participation in education and training. It is defined by the ILO Convention 140 as "leave granted to a worker for educational purposes for a specified period during working hours, with adequate financial entitlements." [2]Article 2 of the Convention states: "Each Member shall formulate and apply a policy designed to promote, by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice and by stages as necessary, the granting of paid educational leave for (a) training at any level; (b) general, social and civic education; (c) trade union education”.[3]

What is the situation of paid educational leave in Europe? Is this right entrenched in the ILO Convention 140 fully enforced nationally?

The ETUI organized last December, in partnership with the CGIL and DGB,  a "Trade Union Educational Leave for All" webinar to discuss these questions[4]. More precisely, the objectives of the webinar were three folds  : (1)to promote and reinforce workers' right to paid educational leave around Europe; (2)to explore legislative and bargaining tools to support this right; ( 3)to share good practices aiming to support workers' right to paid educational leave

The main conclusions of this webinar are summarized hereunder.

Even if ILO C 140 provides legal bases for paid educational leave for workers, including trade union educational leave, this right is not always guaranteed in Europe.

Concerning specifically trade union educational leave, participants identified the following challenges:

-          lack of information and awareness of the right to paid educational leave.

The right to educational leave has yet to be well known. More need to be done to promote it, for example, via campaigns or advertising.  

-          pressure from employers and colleagues to avoid missing work for training when no substitution is available.

One participant testified that in Sweden where there is quite a sound system for educational leave, often workers and reps are reluctant to use it: they are under pressure from colleagues and employers not to take leaves because there is no system for substitution. This situation is especially the case in precarious work where workers may even risk losing their jobs if they go on leave.

-          general focus on training for up-skilling and re-skilling while neglecting the need for civic education.  

Participants pointed out that trade union education cannot be reduced to upskilling or re-skilling. The purpose of trade union education is also to build stronger democratic societies.  

-           a political environment that is hostile towards trade unions and does not encourage trade union leave (e.g., Hungary).

Amongst the trade union mechanisms to enforce the right of trade union educational leave, participants mention the following points :

-          collective bargaining (e.g., Italy).

-          political lobbying to improve the legal basis for trade union educational leave and to increase access to educational leave.

-          trade union ombudsperson to support workers who wish to make use of their right to educational leave (Sweden).

-          information campaigns about existing rights.

-          provide information materials on trade unions, social dialogue, and collective bargaining at the school level to raise awareness among future workers (Sweden).

As cited in the Preamble of ILO Convention 140, “paid educational leave should be regarded as one means of meeting the real needs of individual workers in a modern society”[5].

More than ever, the right of paid educational leave must be enforced to play its role: accompany the needs of workers in this period of multiple transitions.

[1] Benchmarking Working Europe 2023 | etui

[2] Convention C140 - Paid Educational Leave Convention, 1974 (No. 140) (

[3] Convention C140 - Paid Educational Leave Convention, 1974 (No. 140) (

[4] Trade union educational leave for all | etui - See here for the report of this webinar

[5] Convention C140 - Paid Educational Leave Convention, 1974 (No. 140) (