Wednesday

7th Dec 2022

MEPs propose longer maternity leave

  • The proposal would update a 1992 law (Photo: European Commission)

MEPs have proposed extending maternity leave in the European Union to 20 weeks, a move that has sparked criticism over potential costs to already strained budgets.

Deputies in the European Parliament's women's right committee Tuesday (23 February) voted in favour of extending maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks, fully paid, and of granting fathers two weeks of paid leave.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

This goes further than the original European Commission proposal suggesting 18 weeks - reflecting the average in the EU.

"I think this is an important initiative to promote a healthy life-work balance, and healthy companies, families, and individuals," said Portuguese socialist MEP Edite Estrela after the vote.

"Adequate maternity leave should be a right for all new mothers, not just those who can afford it. Additionally guaranteeing two weeks of fully paid paternity leave presents an excellent opportunity for fathers in Europe to play a more active role in family life," said Spanish Green MEP Raül Romeva

The aim is to provide minimum rules across the 27 member states and updates the pregnant workers directive dating from 1992. Under this law, the minimum leave is 14 weeks and pay rate should be no lower than sickness pay in the member state concerned.

The draft legislation has caused strong debate, with some politicians accusing the commission of overstepping its remit and creating new financial burdens during the economic crisis. Britain has been leading the protest against the draft legislation.

Anthony Young, the employment relations minister, said: "The commission's proposals are only at an early stage, but we do have concerns and are lobbying hard to get the right deal for the UK. We already have a generous system … balancing the needs of business and workers."

"It's the wrong time, we are going through a crisis and one of the things this proposal affects are small businesses, we have to remember that small businesses need flexibility to be able to work and this is taking it away, it is putting more legislation on companies that are already overburdened," says UK MEP Marina Yannakoudakis from the Conservative & Reformist group.

From different quarters, the proposal has also drawn criticism for emphasising the role of the mother over that of the father.

Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson chair of the women's rights committee tried to remove wording that obliges the mother only to stay at home directly after birth but it was not possible.

"You cannot be satisfied when we have to lower our legislation, which has a gender perspective, and instead accept this mother fixation, " the Nordic Green/Left MEP told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

MEPs will vote on the proposed legislation on 25 March. Member states then also have to agree to the text. If they change the draft - as is likely - it will go back to parliament for a second vote. The process could take another 18 months.

UK protests at EU maternity leave proposals

Plans to extend maternity leave in the EU to 20 weeks have come under fire by the British government a week before the proposal is due to be voted on in European Parliament.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

French official accused of conflict over EU fish lobby job

A senior French official is being accused of conflicts of interest for spearheading a leading role in Europeche, a fishing-industry lobby group based in Brussels. The hire comes as the EU Commission threatens a lawsuit against France over fishing.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  2. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  3. Autocrats make us all less secure
  4. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity
  5. German top court declares €800bn EU recovery fund 'legal'
  6. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  7. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  8. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us