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European Parliament votes for 20 weeks’ full maternity pay

European Parliament votes for 20 weeks’ full maternity pay

The European Parliament has agreed proposals to amend the Pregnant Workers Directive, which include an increase in the minimum period of maternity leave across the EU to 20 weeks on full pay. The proposals must be approved by the EU Council of Ministers before they can be adopted.

The European Commission published proposals in October 2008 to amend the Pregnant Workers Directive with a view to improving the common minimum maternity rights across all member states. On 20 October 2010 the EU Parliament agreed the following significant amendments to the Commission’s proposals:

  • Increase minimum maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks
  • Give women full pay for the minimum 20-week maternity leave period.
  • Require member states to “take the necessary measures to prohibit” the dismissal of pregnant workers from the beginning of pregnancy until at least 6 months after the end of maternity leave and to ensure written reasons for dismissal during this period are given.
  • Introduce two weeks’ fully paid paternity leave for fathers.
  • Remove obligations to perform night work or overtime: (i) on all pregnant workers during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy; (ii) on pregnant workers with health problems during the remainder of the pregnancy; and (iii) on breastfeeding mothers during the entire period of breastfeeding.
  • Extend compulsory maternity leave from two to six weeks.

Under the legislative procedure, the EU Parliament’s proposals will require a qualified majority of the Council of Ministers in order to be adopted. The Parliament’s proposals go far beyond the Commission’s original proposals. They are likely to have a significant impact in the UK and according to reports in the national press the UK Government is lobbying against some aspects.  

November 2010

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