Members of the European Parliament are sharply divided over proposals to extend women’s basic entitlement to maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks across the EU.
Ahead of a vote next week, the three largest political groups in the Parliament are split, as MEPs are taking their positions along national lines, depending on the maternity leave provisions in their home countries.
The Parliament is to vote on Tuesday (19 October) on a proposal for 20 weeks’ paid leave for mothers, drafted by Edite Estrela, a Portuguese Socialist MEP.
In March, the women’s rights committee narrowly approved Estrela’s report, which calls for 20 weeks’ maternity leave on full pay, six of which would have to be taken before the birth. Fathers would also be entitled to two weeks of fully-paid paternity leave.
These provisions go beyond the European Commission’s proposals for 18 weeks’ maternity leave, guaranteed at sick-pay rates rather than full salary. The draft legislation, published in 2008, seeks to update a 1992 directive that guarantees women a minimum of 14 weeks’ maternity leave.
As European Voice went to press, MEPs were still battling behind closed doors over amendments. One compromise on the table is for 100% full pay for six weeks and 80% pay for 14 weeks, according to people familiar with the negotiations. The Liberals have proposed a minimum entitlement to maternity pay worth 75% of salary.
The Socialists will be seeking today (14 October), at a meeting of the Parliament’s political leadership, to have the vote delayed for a month.
The vote has already been postponed once, after MEPs called for more study on the potential impact of the law. An impact assessment which was completed in September has intensified uncertainties.
The study estimates that the Parliament’s proposals could increase costs in Germany by €1.9 billion each year and in the UK by €1.7bn (although other sources suggest that these are underestimates). It posits less tangible benefits in improved child development and gender equality, but these are harder to measure.
The impact assessment was discussed by MEPs for the first time last week (6 October). “The impact assessment didn’t bring any new light to the discussion,” said one Parliament insider. “Even the experts that were invited to the discussion didn’t agree. Each person was saying something different.”
National governments are universally against proposals for 100% compulsory pay for 20 weeks and are certain to reject such a suggestion. Ministers were supposed to take a position on the proposed law in December, but the timetable is likely to slip. “There is not enough time. It is 18 months since we touched the dossier in the Council,” said one official.
Liliane Volozinskis of the European Association for Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises called on MEPs to reject the Estrela report. “It is not the right time to bring forward a proposal when employers are struggling with the financial crisis,” she said, adding that employers would pay directly, or indirectly through taxes, for these proposals. “Social benefits are paid for by workers and employers. It doesn’t come from nowhere,” Volozinskis said.
Myria Vassiliadou of the European Women’s Lobby countered that it was a myth that the proposal would overload businesses with costs. “In actual terms it is the state that takes the cost for maternity leave in 24 out of 27 member states. [The state] takes the cost on all sorts of other things. So why shouldn’t they support women when they have children?”
? See Comment – Page 9
Click Here: cheap Cowboys jersey