On Wednesday this week, the European Parliament had it in its hands to write history. This, however, was prevented by the last minute negative vote of the European People’s Party (EVP). Therefore, the old 1992 Directive on maternity leave remains in force – a further low point in the direction of developing European minimum standards.
20 weeks maternity leave recede into the distance
The Women’s Committee of the European Parliament came clearly out in favour of improving the safety and the health protection of pregnant and breast-feeding working women and demanded among others to extend the maternity leave to at least 20 weeks. This went far beyond the ideas of the Commission proposal. The Council too did not want an extension to 20 weeks. And unfortunately, the conservative forces of the European Parliament didn’t want this either. Shortly before the vote in the Plenum of the European Parliament, the parliamentary party of the EVP put forward a motion, on the basis of which the entire report would have been referred back to the Committee. Due to a broad Conservative majority, this motion was consequently allowed and now the report must again be discussed by the Committee. Hence, a speedy agreement cannot be expected; one might already anticipate year-long negotiations.

Struggle for European minimum standards continues
The report would have provided for an obligatory paternity leave of two weeks after the woman has given birth and an obligatory maternity leave of at least six weeks after giving birth. The Directive would also have given same sex and unmarried couples the same rights. The ban on dismissals and any preparations of a dismissal during the pregnancy period until the end of the maternity leave had also been planned. The return of women to the same or an equivalent job was also part of the report. Now all demands are off the table. One can only hope that the EU Elections on June 7th will bring an outcome that will result in a worker-friendly composition of the parliament, which will hopefully ensure the speedy development and introduction of European minimum standards.

Further information:

REPORT on the proposal for a directive of maternity leave