EU Directive to advance maternity rights may be withdrawn by May 2015

An amendment to the Maternity Leave Directive proposed almost 9 years ago may be withdrawn this May should an agreement not be reached by MEPs and member states. The amendment would extend maternity leave to 20 weeks with full pay across EU member states.

In 2008, the European Commission voted to recommend an increase of up to 18 weeks for workers across Europe, combined with a welfare rate based on the member states rate of sick pay. However no change in the Directive may go ahead if the European Parliament and the European Council cannot come to an agreement on the length and rate of the leave. Last December, the European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that he would withdraw this pending piece of legislation if some sort of agreement between the two institutions does not occur within a six month period. The European Commission have withdrawn 73 bills to this month in a bid for better regulation and to create momentum leading to concern that this proposed bill will also be withdrawn in May 2015.

Currently the length of maternity leave entitlement is 14 weeks across Europe, with a compulsory 2 weeks of leave around the time of giving birth. The amendment gained favour amongst MEPs in the European Parliament however the European Council, which comprises of 28 heads of member states has delayed the proposal and has not taken any opportunities to negotiate, despite attempts by MEPs. Germany and the United Kingdom are strongly opposed to legislation allowing for 100% salary payments during maternity leave. If the Council and Parliament can negotiate and come to an agreement before May 2015, the proposed Directive will give member states two years to come into effect.

Section 8(1) of Ireland’s Maternity Protection Act 1994 and Amendment Act 2004 provides for 26 weeks paid (depending on the employer) with an option to extend by 16 weeks unpaid leave, and a mandatory period of 6 weeks at the time of the expected birth.

Click here to read a summary of the legislative proposal.



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