European Directive on Maternity Rights – Commission proposes improvements in maternity leave and payMonday, October 13th, 2008
On 3 October 2008, the European Commission published proposals that would amend the existing Directive by
- increasing the minimum maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks
- increasing the flexibility for women to decide when to take their maternity leave before or after giving birth
- improving employment protection for women on, or returning from, maternity leave.
The proposals will be considered by the European Parliament and sent to national governments for discussion, with a view to reaching agreement in 2009. In principle, UK maternity rights are already equivalent to or better than those proposed. (See comparison chart of maternity provisions in all EU countries, below)
In addition, a new Directive is proposed that would require member states to make social security provision for self-employed women and for so-called “assisting spouses” to receive the same level of maternity benefits as is required by the Directive covering employed women. The term “assisting spouses” is used to describe spouses and life partners (recognised as such in national law) who work on an informal basis in small family businesses such as a farm or a local doctor’s practice, in many cases without pay or any employment rights.
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