Maternity leave plans under threat

Maternity leave plans under threat

Employment ministers could ditch Parliament’s maternity leave plans.



A plan for longer maternity leave in the EU could effectively be killed off when employment ministers meet in Luxembourg tomorrow (17 June).

Ministers from up to 11 member states are expected to express their opposition to the European Parliament’s support for extending maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay.

In December, employment ministers, already wary of the plan, delayed talks by ordering a progress report on the issue. It is understood that the report, which will be discussed tomorrow, will say that a majority of member states would not support the Parliament’s stance.

“We expect up to 11 member states to intervene and express their scepticism about the prospects of future negotiations, and we expect them to say that under these circumstances, the Council should not go ahead and adopt its own first reading,” said an official involved in the talks.

Cost fears

Member states are not allowed to throw out the proposal, which was voted on by MEPs in October, but there is no limit to the time that it can remain on the table, and it now looks as though there will be little chance of progress.

Opposition to the Parliament’s position from national governments, notably Germany and the UK, centres on fears about the scheme’s potential cost to the state and to employers. Member states have also baulked at what they perceive as the imposition of a narrow social model.

The Parliament’s approach went further than the European Commission’s proposal, which envisaged prolonging minimum maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks, guaranteed at sick-pay rates rather than full salary. MEPs also voted for the introduction of two weeks’ paternity leave.

The draft legislation, published in 2008, seeks to update a 1992 directive that guarantees women a minimum of 14 weeks of maternity leave.

Ian Wishart 

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