EU maternity leave directive set to be shelved

7th of July 2011
EU maternity leave directive set to be shelved

A controversial draft EU law that would give women 20 weeks of maternity leave on full pay are set to be shelved by EU employment ministers.

A consortium of member states led by Germany and the UK are to freeze the Pregnant Workers Directive in the hope that the European Commission will later abandon it.In its original proposal for a directive two years ago, the Commission suggested increasing the minimum level of maternity leave in the EU from 14 to 18 weeks, in line with standards developed by the International Labour Organisation.

But in October last year a large majority of MEPs voted at first reading to boost the minimum duration of maternity leave to 20 weeks and require member states to ensure women continue to receive their full salary while on leave.

Following that decision, the Council held a policy debate on in December 2010 during which eight member states registered reservations. That group has now consolidated its opposition in order to freeze the legislation.

Member states are concerned about what they regard as the adoption of maximum not minimum EU standards and the lack of flexibility of the proposals to accommodate the various maternity leave systems that exist throughout the EU; as well as the financial consequences of providing a guarantee of 20 weeks on full pay, especially in the current economic climate.

Since the proposed directive is subject to qualified majority voting, the consortium has the power to shelve the draft legislation indefinitely. Although the Council does not have the power to throw out the proposal, it cannot be forced to put the issue back on the agenda.



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