Fabian Demicoli

…Safety and health at work of pregnant workers

 A majority of Member States support the extension of maternity leave entitlement from 14 to 18 weeks. However, some called for opening up the leave also for fathers and to take into account the outcome of the social partners' negotiations on other types of family leave.

A number of Member States wished to keep the right to decide within their national legislation whether a part of maternity leave should be taken before childbirth. Some Member States expressed concern that a further extension of maternity leave might be at the expense of broader rights to parental leave and might adversely effect the situation of women on the labour market.

The aim of the Commission's proposal is to improve the protection offered to pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding by extending the minimum length of maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks of which at least six weeks shall be taken after childbirth. Other elements of the proposal include the principle of full pay during the 18 weeks, with a possibility for Member States to introduce a ceiling that must not be below sickness pay; the right for women coming back from maternity leave or already during maternity leave to ask their employer to adapt their working patterns and hours; the right to return to the same job or an equivalent post.

The proposal forms part of the Commission's work-life balance package which aims to contribute to a better conciliation of professional, private and family life. The other parts of the package are a proposal for a Directive on the equal treatment of the self-employed and their assisting spouses, a policy document explaining the background and context and a report on progress made by EU countries towards the so-called 'Barcelona targets' for children provision.

In general, the Maltese Government feels that certain elements of the Proposal are best dealt with at a national level in order to appropriately address the workforce realities in each Member State.

Source: MEUSAC Employment, Social Policy & Health Sectoral Committee

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