European Parliament takes another step closer to 20 weeks maternity leave on full pay.Thursday, October 28th, 2010
On 18 October, the European Parliament debated the Commission’s relatively moderate proposals to extend the protection afforded by the Pregnant Workers Directive and a range of more radical proposals put forward by the Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee. The speeches made by the many MEPs who took part in the debate are available to read at the link below, although many are in different languages. The views expressed by several UK MEPs reflected in general the directions given to them by the Coalition government.
Two days later the MEPs voted on the proposals and, in the main, those promoted by the Women’s Committee prevailed. Among the many changes that were approved by the Parliament are the following:
- Workers who have adopted a child under the age of 12 months should have the same rights as a natural parent and be able to take “maternity” leave on the same conditions.
- Maternity leave should be provided for at least 20 continuous weeks, allocated before and/or after confinement, with at least 6 weeks allocated after confinement.
- A least the first six weeks after childbirth must be a period of compulsory maternity leave on full pay. If the couple requests, the six weeks may be shared with the father.
- For multiple births, the period of compulsory leave must be increased for each additional child.
- A proportionate period of leave on full pay must be provided in the case of stillbirth (at least an additional 6 weeks), premature childbirth, children hospitalised at birth, children with disabilities (at least an additional 8 weeks), mothers with disabilities, and multiple births.
- Payment during maternity leave must be the worker’s full salary, i.e. 100% of the last monthly salary or the average monthly salary.
- The last 4 weeks of the 20 weeks may be provided instead by a scheme of family-related leave, paid at at least 75% of the last monthly salary or average monthly salary.
- Where paid maternity leave is provided for at least 18 weeks, the final two weeks may be met by paternity leave, paid at the same level of pay.
- Mothers of disabled children should be granted additional maternity leave, although the minimum period is not yet defined.
- The basis on which men are entitled to paid paternity leave should be the same as maternity leave, other than its duration.
- Workers who are pregnant, or have recently given birth, or are breastfeeding should not be obliged to work at night or to work overtime during:
- the 10 weeks preceding the due date of childbirth,
- during the remainder of the pregnancy if it is necessary to protect the health of the mother or the unborn child,
- during the entire period of breastfeeding.
- Dismissal is prohibited of workers who are pregnant, or have recently given birth, or who are breastfeeding, during the week from the beginning of pregnancy to at least 6 months following the end of maternity leave, other than for exceptional unrelated situations.
- Encouragement for Member States to allow workers to work part-time for a period not longer than one year, with full dismissal protection during the period and return to their full-time job and pay at the end of the period.
- A woman who is breastfeeding will be entitled to two separate periods, each of one hour, unless other arrangements are agreed with the employer, without losing any employment privileges. In the case of multiple births, the leave will be increased by 30 minutes for each additional child. In the case of part-time work, the period will be reduced proportionately but to not less than 30 minutes.
The vote was in respect of the first reading of the proposed Directive amendments and further Parliamentary stages have to be completed before any or all of these proposals become mandatory on the Member States. Both the Parliament and the Commission have to arrive at an agreed text for the amendments and, as many of the majority-vote changes go well beyond the Commission’s intentions, there may be more readings and, if necessary, the formation of a Conciliation Committee to try to reach agreement. It could be some years before the UK has to implement any final changes to the Pregnant Workers Directive.