EWL News

[Press Release] International Women’s Day: SOS – Deliver NOW: SAVE the Maternity Leave Directive

[Brussels, 5 March 2015] Open letter to EU Ministers of Employment, Social Affairs and Gender Equality, all European decision-makers.

At the eve of International Women’s Day (8 March), the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) calls on you to save the Maternity Leave Directive, which has been on the table since 2010 and is threatened to be withdrawn by the European Commission, in the name of red tape.

We call on you to act immediately to send a positive message to women all over Europe that you care about their health and safety and their rights when pregnant, and on return to work after child-birth. We invite you to accept the proposal of the European Parliament to set up a Working Group to break the deadlock and resume negotiations.

The threat to remove the Maternity Leave Directive from the legislative process is serious as it negates Europe’s rhetoric on its commitment to gender equality and effective work-life balance for women and men in Europe. Adopting a stronger Maternity Leave Directive would have a positive and direct benefit to millions of families and would send a positive message to people across the EU that it is committed to their rights.

The theme of the 2015 International Women’s Day is economic independence. Women in Europe continue to earn on average 16% less than men. It is often at the moment of childbirth that the gender pay gap kicks in, with life- long often irreversible consequences, as women’s pension is 40% less than men.

The European Women’s Lobby calls on all Member State governments and European decision-makers to DELIVER NOW!. We call on you to move forward to resume negotiations to ensure that a robust Maternity Leave Directive guarantees that all women in Europe have equal rights.

Yours sincerely,

European Women’s Lobby


Notes to Editors:

For Media Enquiries – contact Elvira Buijink buijink@womenlobby.org, +32 2/210 04 40

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL)

The EWL is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 28 EU member states and three candidate countries, as well as to 21 European-wide bodies, representing a total of more than 2000 organisations. www.womenlobby.org

The Maternity leave Directive:

The proposed Maternity Leave Directive, adopted democratically by a large majority of the European Parliament in first reading on 20 October 2010, has been blocked by Member State governments (Council) for over three years despite ongoing attempts to find a negotiated position and subsequent decision which never materialised.

The proposed Maternity Leave Directive is an all-encompassing set of proposals to strengthen the rights of pregnant workers and women returning to work following childbirth and/or who are breastfeeding. These include, up to 20 weeks fully paid leave, a mandatory six-week rest period before or after birth whenever they choose, extension of the same rights to domestic workers and adoptive mothers, specific measures for multiple births and disabilities, protection from dismissal for six months, protection from imposed night shifts and overtime and flexibility for breastfeeding mothers. In addition, a two-week fully paid paternity leave provision is included in the European Parliament’s adopted position, which bridges the gap in relation to paternity leave (also available to same sex couples) as there is no European Directive on this form of leave. It should also be noted that a passerelle clause is included for countries where a strong parental leave framework is in place, which means that the reality of the situation in different countries is taken into account and that women who are pregnant, have given birth and/or who are breastfeeding have the same rights throughout the European Union.

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