[Brussels, 4 July 2014] The European Women’s Lobby cries scandal as the rhetoric on women’s rights and gender equality takes a blow.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), has learned with dismay about the European Commission’s proposal to withdraw the proposed Maternity Leave Directive, as a gesture of ‘legislative management’ before the new Commission is installed. “This is a classic example of the backlash against women’s rights and gender equality in Europe. It sends a very bad signal to women and men in Europe about how much the EU can do to support real people’s rights and lives.” says Joanna Maycock, EWL Secretary General.
The proposed Maternity Leave Directive was adopted democratically by a large majority of the European Parliament in its first reading on 20 October 2010. It has nonetheless been blocked by Member State governments (Council) for over three years. The proposal provides a number of forward-looking measures including 20 weeks fully paid maternity leave, strengthened measures to protect women from dismissal on return and two weeks fully paid paternity leave also available to same sex couples (see note to editors).
“The threat to remove the Maternity Leave Directive from the legislative process is serious and undermines the democratic process of the European Parliament’s adopted position. This negates Europe’s rhetoric on its commitment to gender equality and effective work-life balance for women and men in Europe”, states Joanna Maycock.
Women continue to earn 16% on average less than men and it often at the moment of childbirth that the gender pay gap kicks in, with life- long often irreversible consequences, including the fact that women receive on average 40% less pension than men. Despite existing laws that protect pregnant workers, we know that more and more women today are experiencing discrimination in the work place as a direct result of pregnancy and/or birth. This is why it is urgent to strengthen the rights and protection of women during pregnancy and on return to work. “It is unacceptable that measures to protect women’s rights are part of a trade-off to cut red tape: women’s rights are NOT red tape.” states Ms Maycock.
In an Open Letter to the newly designated President of the European Commission, the EWL calls on Mr Juncker to reject this proposal to withdraw the Maternity Leave Directive, immediately reinstate the proposal and to give his full commitment to reaching a decision with the Council. We expect the newly elected European Parliament will react strongly against this proposal and will work with the Italian Presidency towards achieving a favourable conclusion.
Notes to Editors:
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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.