Green Party Women

European Parliament votes to step up maternity leave

16 April 2009

Today the European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality voted to set maternity leave at a minimum of 20 weeks, as well as giving a strong political signal on paternity leave.

London's Green MEP, Jean Lambert, commented: "There is no bigger event for an individual or a family than welcoming a new child to the world, and it is vital that adequate leave is guaranteed for working mothers in particular. Along with the World Health Organisation and several other groups, I would like to see working women entitled to at least 24 weeks of maternity leave.

“Today the European Parliament's women's rights committee fell short of that level of commitment, but it did at least adopt a position for a minimum of 20 continuous weeks, of which at least six must be fully paid. The European Commission had supported 18 weeks, with certain Member States favouring even more restricted rights to leave.


“I am satisfied that the Committee has made a stand for the rights of both parents to be able to fully participate after the birth of a child. Paternity or co-maternity leave of at least two mandatory weeks is now set out for the mother's life partner.

“I also welcome that mothers are set to have improved protection against unfair dismissal when they return to work. According to today's adopted position, employers will be obliged to prove that any dismissal of a mother within 12 months of maternity leave is not discriminatory.

“These measures represent real progress for maternity and paternity leave across Europe. I now call on the European Parliament as a whole to support the position of its women's rights and gender equality committee."

The Committee voted 18 in favour, 6 against with 5 abstentions. The European Parliament will vote on this issue in its May plenary session in Strasbourg. The European Parliament is co-legislator on this issue, on the double legal basis in the EU treaties for 'health and safety at work' and 'gender equality'.

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