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20 weeks of maternity leave with full pay difficult for the Member States, says Polish Presidency

[Brussels, 09 December 2011] The Polish EU Presidency has outlined the progress made in the last few months in the negotiations on the renewal of the maternity leave Directive. The Presidency concludes that it has become crystal clear that the period of 20 weeks of maternity leave with full pay is unacceptable to the Council.

The Polish Presidency had decided to focus the Council’s work on the Directive on the length of the maternity leave and the level of maternity allowance. In addition; the Presidency had explored the possibility to vote on the Directive based on qualified majority voting instead of unanimous voting.

Based on the discussions in the informal meeting of gender equality ministers in Cracow on 21 October, the Presidency has drawn the following conclusions:

  • maternity leave (even shorter than 20 weeks) with full pay was not supported;
  • considering further payment at the level of sick pay was the option that won the most support from delegations. There was also some support for an option entailing a maternity allowance with a ceiling, as a basis for further discussion;
  • while some delegations considered the "passerelle" clause (qualified majority voting instead of unanimous voting) to be an interesting option, there were others who were not able to accept this approach.

According to the Polish Presidency, many Member States considered discussions premature and in some cases not feasible in the current economic situation.

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