MEPs are urging the European Commission to come up with a new policy proposal to harmonize maternity leave across the EU countries and thus get the legislative process moving forward. Seven years ago, the Commission proposed a Maternity Leave Directive that would increase mandatory maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks but the first reading counted with up to 20 weeks at full pay. The text of the directive has been deadlocked ever since.
The new Commission has, however, been losing patience and announced in December last year that the proposal would be scrapped if no progress is made in six months’ time. Commission’s Vice President, Frans Timmermans, commented that he was “prepared to make one last effort to get this proposal adopted, but if there is no progress within six months we will abandon it”. If no consensus can be made, Mr Timmermans said, he would try to formulate “a new proposal to try and release the institutional deadlock”.
Although end-June-deadline is quickly approaching, no progress has been made yet. The Latvian presidency moreover said that it “had no mandate to begin new discussions on the maternity leave directive” and thus “the ball is now in the Commission’s court”. Although the Commission is not very supportive of the proposed directive, members of parliament are still fighting for it. Moreover, the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality has recently adopted a non-binding resolution, urging the EU’s executive and Member States to discuss the topic.
The data of the European Parliament reveal that the length of postnatal maternity leave currently varies from six weeks at full pay in Portugal, for example, to 52 weeks in Belgium at 90 percent pay. Some Member States have a mandatory leave and some non-mandatory. At the moment, 15 Member States offer maternity leave at full pay. The minimum coverage is in Slovakia, which covers only 65 percent of both prenatal and 65 percent of postnatal care.