The relevant Women’s Committee in the European Parliament thinks that the proposal of the European Commission on improvements with regard to maternity leave do not go far enough. This is the result of the vote taken last week. Parliament and Council must now come to an agreement until the beginning of May. Currently, however, this seems to be unlikely.
Mandatory pay during maternity leave
The European Parliament demands that maternity leave is extended to at least 20 weeks. The Commission proposal provides for an extending the period to 18 weeks. This would mean just 4 weeks more than is currently the case. Maternity leave within the EU is between 14 and 28, in some countries even up to 52 weeks long. Pay during the maternity leave period, however, significantly varies from Member State to Member State. The Parliament demands that 100 % of the last salary should be paid during the first 6 weeks after the birth. At least 85 % of the salary should be paid for the remaining period; both payments should be mandatory. In contrast to this the Commission proposes that the Member States themselves regulate the issue of pay during maternity leave and that payment is optional.

Paternity leave of 2 weeks after birth on the cards

Another request of the Parliament is the introduction of obligatory paternity leave. This should take place during first 2 weeks after the birth. The Commission, however, did not address the issue of paternity leave in this concrete form at all. It remains now to be seen what the reaction of the Council and the Commission will be.

No dismissal during maternity leave
What is a matter of course in Austria, must be frequently regulated in some Member States in order to create uniform minimum standards. In Austria, it is prohibited by law to dismiss a woman during pregnancy and up to 4 months after giving birth. The Parliament also demands an obligatory ban on dismissal during the pregnancy. Any dismissal 12 months after the maternity protection period should only then be possible if it is made in writing and if it is not associated with maternity. This corresponds to a demand by the Chamber of Labour. In contrast, the Commission is only supporting a ban on dismissal during the maternity protection period. The Commission is far away from supporting a 12-month protection period as it has been championed by the Parliament.

Vote in the Plenum of the Parliament in May
At the beginning of May, the European Parliament will vote on the report of the Women’s Committee. It remains to be seen whether an agreement with the Council will have been reached or whether Europe must continue to wait for European minimum standards being developed further.

Further information:

Press Release from the European Parliament

EP Report on Maternity Leave

AK Position Paper on the maternity leave directive