Fabian Demicoli

Disappointment at Parliament adoption: Maternity Leave Directive

 On 20 October, MEPs voted in plenary to adopt the report of MEP Edite Estrela (PES) on the revision of the directive 92/85/EEC on maternity leave. The revision will extend the minimum maternity leave period in the EU from 14 weeks to 20 fully paid weeks. It will also introduce a period of protection from dismissal after the end of maternity leave of at least 6 months and two weeks of paternity leave. Extending the minimum leave period to 20 fully paid weeks all over Europe will create additional costs in many Member States for public budgets and for employers, be it directly or indirectly.





















Despite our repeated calls, the Parliament turned a deaf ear to the warning of SMEs. This is very worrying especially for small employers, all the more in the present economic climate.

The main aim of the current directive is to protect the health of pregnant women and of those who recently gave birth. We clearly support this goal, but we are afraid that today's vote will do little in this respect and will shift the focus away from the health and safety dimension. There is no clear evidence that extending maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks as voted by the Parliament's plenary will significantly increase the protection of the health and safety of recent mothers.

GRTU sees the position of MEPs as somewhat one-sided. We take the view that these changes will not strike a proper balance between the needs of women in regards to their private and family life and the professional requirements of business.

Increasing maternity leave risks damaging not only public finances and SMEs' budgets but also putting a dent on young women's chances of finding employment, due to the additional costs and burdens for employers willing to hire women of childbearing age. Moreover, the issue of a better work-life balance for female workers cannot be solved by increasing maternity leave. Childcare facilities and flexible work arrangements are crucial and should also be part of the solution.

Small employers should not be weighed down with more burdens and costs, and the same is true to a very large extent for national public finances. We hope that the European Council will realise what is at stake, reject the re-quests made by the Parliament and revert to a more reasonable solution.

When it comes to health and safety at the workplace, we are by no means against minimum standards at European level. However, when it comes to maternity leave, the interests of all parties must be taken into account.

Many different measures such as paternal and parental leave are already in place and available. There is a danger that further requirements on employers, could, in the long-term, harm business and so disadvantage the working mothers they employ. For this reason, we regard this vote as counterproductive for our workers and our sector.

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