EWL News

Maternity protection in the EU well overdue

[Brussels, 10 December 2012] At the European level, the current EU legislation regarding maternity protection and maternity leave dates back to 1992: Council Directive 92/85/EEC (“Pregnant Workers’ Directive”). This directive sets a minimum period of 14 weeks maternity leave, with a mandatory period of 2 weeks. Pay is left to the discretion each Member State, but reference is made to “sick leave” levels. Its legal base is health and safety in the workplace.

NEW LEGISLATIVE Co-decision Procedure

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION 2008 – The European Commission proposed to amend the Council Directive 92/85/EEC in order to extend maternity leave up to 18 weeks, with a mandatory period of 6 weeks: Commission’s proposal. The European Commission also produced an impact assessment report on reconciliation of professional, private and family life: Impact Assessment Report
  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT The proposal went to the European Parliament, to be discussed in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) meetings: MEP Ms Edit Estrela was appointed as Rapporteur for the draft position. FEMM Committee kept open the dialogue with the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL). Ms Estrela’s view was to extend the legal base also to equality between women and men. On 20 October 2010 the European Parliament plenary session adopted its legislative resolution P7_TA(2010)0373, allowing for 20 weeks full paid maternity leave, with a so-called “passerelle clause” for those Member States that combine maternity and parental leave; in addition, 2 weeks full paid paternity leave was agreed upon and a protection clause which provided for mothers’ and fathers’ protection up to 6 months on return to their workplace.
  • COUNCIL OF THE EU, the Council for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers Affairs (EPSCO) has been asked to give its position with regards to the European parliament’s proposal, to enable the second reading of the proposed directive which subsequently will form the basis of negotiations between the Council and the Parliament. However, over two years have passed without an official position from the Council.

The European Women’s Lobby backs the position adopted by the European Parliament in 2010 and urges the Council of the European Union EPSCO to re-open negotiations, recalling that maternity leave and protection of new mothers at the workplace are pivotal to assure women’s rights and gender equality, women’s economic independence and work-family balance as well as to promote increases in the birth-rate, in light of the current EU demographic trends. The adoption of the directive is also crucial to the EU’s EU2020 target which seeks to achieve an employment rate for women and men of 75% by 2020.

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