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New Maternity Leave Directive: European Women’s Lobby Calls for 24 Weeks Paid Maternity Leave for All Women in the European Union

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) welcomes the Commission’s proposal released last Friday to amend the current European Directive on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding.

Commenting on the proposed 18 weeks continuous leave, which adds 4 extra weeks to the current European legislation, Myria Vassiliadou, EWL Secretary General, stressed that ‘currently 15 Member States provide maternity leave from between 16-25 weeks and of these, 6 countries provide for 25 weeks or more. This means that more than half of Member States have provisions that are above the Commission’s new proposal. Therefore, the EWL is calling for up to 24 weeks paid maternity leave which would reflect a more accurate average of practices currently in place.” Together with its member organisations, the EWL will seek to extend the number of weeks up to 24 in the process starting today, that will lead to the adoption of the amended Directive.

“The other provisions of the revised directive will enable women to enjoy their pregnancy and the early months with their newborn child knowing that their position is secure for up to six months on returning to work and that their financial security during maternity leave is guaranteed based on their monthly salary, this is a huge improvement”, stated Kirsti Kolthoff, EWL President. ‘The extension of the mandatory leave of six weeks - currently two weeks - to be taken after child birth, means that women will be able to, recuperate, breastfeed, and spend time with their newborn child without having to juggle with work demands. It also means that women will be able to chose if they wish to take pre-natal leave and not have it imposed upon them as is the case in some countries”, she added.

While welcoming the Commission’s proposal to enable self-employed and assisting spouses/life partners to avail of maternity leave protection, the EWL regrets the ‘voluntary’ nature of the proposal and calls for equal provisions in maternity for all women in Europe, including those in atypical forms of employment, regardless of their professional status and that the reference to income should be based on national average wage.

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