EWL News

The European Women’s Lobby welcomes the Commission’s Work-Life-Balance but calls for strengthened maternity rights for women

[Brussels, 26 April 2017] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) welcomes the European Pillar of Social Rights initiative which puts the long-awaited social dimension back into the heart of Europe.

Responding to the European Commission’s (EC) Work-Life-Balance Package published today, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is pleased to welcome this timely new package. In a joint statement by a Coalition of European networks of NGOs we express our confidence that it has the potential to bring real change to the lives of many Europeans.

The EWL has been calling for years for many of the measures in the package, and endorses the proposals for legislation on paid paternity leave, non-transferable and paid parental leave and the first steps towards a more comprehensive carer’s leave proposal.

The measures are a positive step forward for both women and men in Europe, especially to rebalance care responsibilities which are disproportionately placed on women’s shoulders. Women’s overwhelming burden of care prevents them from participating in all areas of life, including in political leadership as well as in the labour-market. The proposal for a Directive on Work-Life-Balance should, in the long term, have a positive impact on reducing gender gaps in pay, life-long earnings and pensions.

It is ironic however, that proposals to strengthen maternity rights are blatantly missing. The proposed Directive is, after all, intended to replace the Maternity Leave Directive which was withdrawn in 2015. Yet, the current package contains no legislative proposal to strengthen rights that directly concern women.

While alluded to in the text in an indirect way, no new legislative rights — particularly with regards to an extended period of protection from dismissal, and pay — are mentioned. Yet, despite existing laws we know that more and more women today are experiencing discrimination in the work place as a direct result of pregnancy and/or child birth. This is why it is urgent to strengthen the rights and protection of women during pregnancy and on return to work. We expect there will be adequate scope to deliver maternity rights in the next stages of the adoption of the package.

Joanna Maycock, EWL Secretary General states “We are pleased with the leadership the EC has shown in support of social rights and working families with the launch of this package. It is, however, very disappointing that maternity leave, an issue of crucial importance for millions of women in Europe, is not part of the package. We therefore firmly call on the European Union to strengthen maternity rights for women.

The Commission’s initiative can have decisive impact on women and men’s lives in Europe and bring the European project back into the heart of a social Europe that shows it cares. In the long term, we can expect that the measures will bring mindset and societal changes where caring and sharing will become the norm for women and men, without jeopardising their working aspirations and lives. We therefore strongly urge the legislators to swiftly move forward in adopting these proposals.

The EWL will carefully examine all of the proposals in the package and engage with its members in all EU Member States to move forward. We will also continue to seek the delivery of maternity rights to ensure that all women in Europe have equal rights with regards to pregnancy and child birth. Women must not be sanctioned for giving birth.

For more information:
Elvira Buijink, Communications & Media Officer, buijink@womenlobby.org and Mary Collins, Senior Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, collins@womenlobby.org European Women’s Lobby +32 2 217 90 20

Check an informative video by the European Commisssion on the work-life-balance here!

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