European directive on maternity leave: Council and Parliament, a couple in crisis

The deputies were in favour of the period extension of maternity leave and a better allocation for the parents while the Council seems rather hesitant.

It has been a year since the EP called for an extension to maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay and on Tuesday Portuguese Socialist Edite Estrela asked a representative of the Polish presidency of the Council why no progress has been made on revising the rules.

Radosław Mleczko, Vice Minister for Labour and Social Policy said that it would be difficult to reach a compromise on revising maternity leave rules based on the EP’s amendments extending leave for mothers and fathers, given the backdrop of a struggling world economy. The EP proposed giving fathers 2 weeks paternity leave with full pay.

Maternity a service not a burden

During the debate Estrela pressed for a rethink of the role of mothers in our society. She said that maternity should not be seen as a burden on the economy but rather as a service provided to society.

In her question, she said that in order to reach the 75% employment rate for women set out in the EU 2020 strategy, further measures to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life must be implemented. She urged the Council to reach a formal position so that discussions on finding a compromise can begin with the EP.

Minister urges EP to think again

Mr Mleczko said that each party has the same goal (parent friendly regulation) but each party is looking in a different direction. He added that the Council has to say frankly that in the face of the crisis and solutions already in place the Council cannot accept 20 fully paid weeks of leave.

He encouraged the EP to reconsider its position and bear in mind the traditions and experiences of Member States.

Current maternity leave is a minimum of 14 weeks and the Commission’s proposal was to extend leave to 18 weeks. Maternity leave varies across the EU as does the amount of pay received.

What’s next?

The EP and Council are co-legislators for the dossier. The EP adopted it’s first reading on the Commission’s proposal and it is now up to the member states to react to the EP’s amendments before the proposal can move on. So for the time being the current legislation remains in force and the new proposals remain frozen.

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