Relief for Business as European Commission Gives up on Maternity Leave Directive

Relief for Business as European Commission Gives up on Maternity Leave Directive

The European Commission is going to withdraw its draft directive on maternity leave, a proposal which has been stalled in the EU Council of Ministers for close to four years.

The commission’s directive, which would force employers across the EU to allow 20 weeks fully-paid maternity leave, was agreed by the European Parliament in 2010, but cannot become EU law without the agreement of the council, which represents the governments of member states.

Because council has refused to move on the issue, the commission is withdrawing the draft directive under its Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme, a programme devised to give the impression the EU is cutting red tape.

According to Euractiv, in a communication dated June 18, the commission wrote, “The Commission considers it good legislative management to withdraw proposals that do not advance in the legislative process […]. These include proposals on […] pregnant workers […].”

The European Women’s Lobby, an NGO umbrella organisation of women.s groups in the EU which, by the most recent available accounts, received €910,588 (£723,000) in 2011 from the European Commission, said: “This is a classic example of the backlash against women’s rights and gender equality in Europe. It sends a very bad signal to women and men in Europe about how much the EU can do to support real people’s rights and lives.”

“This negates Europe’s rhetoric on its commitment to gender equality and effective work-life balance for women and men in Europe.”

However, the business and financial publication City A.M. reports today that news of the withdrawal will come as a relief to ministers and business leaders, who back in 2010 “vowed to fight the controversial proposals. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has estimated the cost of draft directive could be as high as £2bn per year – twice the current spend on maternity leave.”

Minimum maternity leave in the EU is currently set at 14 weeks.

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