[Brussels, 7 August 2015] The European Commission has come up with an “indicative Roadmap” combining a number of initiatives to address the “challenges of working parents” with regards to work-life balance, including maternity leave. This comes seven years after its proposal to amend the Maternity Leave Directive in 2008 and after withdrawing it as part of its red-tape exercise (REFIT) at the beginning of July this year.
Whilst no definitive path has been prioritised at this stage, pending a public and Social Partner consultation, the Roadmap proposes three possible options:
Option 1: Legislative measures, including tweaked changes to the Maternity Leave Directive.
Examples of possible changes include provisions for breastfeeding mothers after return to work or improving protection against dismissal. However, the EWL regrets that divisive issues of the past – namely full pay – will not be reopened.
Other legislative measures include the possibility of a stand-alone Paternity Leave Directive as well as a Carer’s Leave Directive for which a public consultation already took place in 2011.
The Social Partners will be invited to assess their agreements on Parental Leave, the Fixed-term work and the Part-time work Directives. Strengthening the right to request flexible working arrangements for both women and men with caring responsibilities is also part of this option.
Option 2: Non legislative measures or the ‘soft approach’ which would be set out in a Commission Communication
This would encompass ‘ambitious’ benchmarks on conditions for women’s participation in the labour market; monitoring and reporting through the European Semester process; targeted European Social Funds for childcare projects and infrastructure; targeted awareness raising campaigns on work-life balance.
Option 3: Proposes a combination of both legislative and non-legislative measures.
The overall aim of the proposed Roadmap is to increase women’s labour-market participation hence improving their economic independence, to reduce gender gaps in pay, pensions and poverty over time. Sharing of care responsibilities with men by facilitating men’s take up of leave, is also part of this objective. But this will not be enough.
The Social Partners will be the main drivers in terms of legislative proposals, and only in the absence of negotiations will the Commission come forward with proposals for legislation.
After years of lobbying and campaigning for the Maternity Leave Directive to safeguard women’s rights and economic independence and ensure they are not sanctioned for giving birth, we expect this new proposal to drive legislative and robust measures that are forward looking. We expect that they will strengthen women’s specific rights with regards to pregnancy and childbirth and guarantee the sharing of caring between women and men to bring about real societal change.
If Europe is serious about gender equality, it needs to demonstrate that it is able to deliver rights, equality and justice for all.
The EWL maintains its message and campaign to Deliver Now!