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European Parliament votes for massive increase in maternity leave

October 20, 2010 2:02 PM
Originally published by Liz Lynne

European Parliament plans to extend maternity leave on full pay to 20 weeks have been voted through today, despite amendments by Lib Dem European Employment and Social Affairs Spokesperson Liz Lynne MEP calling for full pay to be taken out.

MEPs at the Parliament in Strasbourg voted by 390 votes to 192 to adopt proposals from the European Parliament's Women's Committee to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay, a move which would cost the UK €3 billion (£2.5 billion) per annum.

Liz Lynne, who is also first Vice President of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee said:

"This is a disappointing result. MEPs did not see sense and voted to adopt 20 weeks maternity leave on full pay, proposals which would be damaging if implemented but this is only the first stage of a long negotiation."

"I am assured the coalition government will stop this in its tracks before it becomes legislation. This would not just be a problem for the UK , but for many other EU Member States."

"This directive was always intended, quite rightly, to provide minimum standards to protect pregnant workers and women who are breastfeeding.

"However, some of the amendments from the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs go too far and did not take into account the different traditions in different Member States."

"Some countries have maternity leave, some have paternity leave as well, and some have parental leave. They are paid in totally different ways and at different rates - some from the social security systems, some from businesses and some are a mixture. We must not ruin some very good systems."

"My amendments tried to address the difficulty of achieving something that will suit all Member States. Bringing in a requirement for full pay would, in my opinion, stop a lot of young women from being employed as much as they are now.

"I am pleased that the second impact assessment was at least more detailed than the first. As you know, it said that it would cost the ten Member States over EUR 7 billion a year if full pay was included. It did not even look at the other 17 Member States and I assume the cost of bringing in full pay for them would also be problematic."


Note: Background to today's vote:

The European Commission published a proposal to amend the Pregnant Workers Directive (92/85/EEC) in October 2008. The Directive sets down minimum levels of maternity rights, including leave and pay, which member states must provide.

The Commission proposal would extend the period of maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks. It also introduces the principles of full pay during maternity leave with member states able to specify a ceiling (which must be equal to statutory sick pay).

The Women's Rights Committee of the European Parliament subsequently agreed amendments (the 'Estrela' amendments) to the Commission proposal whereby maternity leave would be extended to 20 weeks on full pay. These were voted on in the plenary session in Strasbourg today and MEPs decided by 354 votes to 287 to adopt full pay amendments.