Half of Europe celebrates Mother’s Day today, 3 May, the other half will do so on 10 May. This occasion gives us a good opportunity to highlight the fact that the European Commission seems to be determined to withdraw the EU Maternity Leave Directive. It was adopted by the European Parliament in first reading in 2010, but the European Council is reluctant to put it on their agenda ever since quoting its being untimely because of the economic crisis. It proposes a minimum of 20 weeks of fully paid maternity leave (as compared to the present 14 weeks), the protection of pregnant women’s jobs and also a minimum of 2 weeks paid paternity leave. The European Women’s Lobby has been doing an extensive campaign to save the initiative.
The story of the directive is described in detail in a January 2015 article on EuranetPlus. As a new development the European Women’s Lobby has started a petition to save the directive.
Let me add just one extra argument to the debate. All paediatricians advise new parents to try and breastfeed only in the first 6 months of a baby’s life as it helps the baby to stay healthy and to avoid a lot of health and behaviour risks. All working mothers coming from countries with shorter leave possibilities are deprived of their right to choose this option even if they believe it would be the right one for their children.
It is widely known that 10 member states (Denmark, Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK) are blocking the initiative while some others that already overachieve the minimum in their national legislation (eg. Austria) simply do not push for it. Mother’s Day provides a good opportunity for all parents in Europe to help the effort and raise our voices for equal treatment and equal opportunities for all mothers and children in Europe.
We are joining some of our partners in taking action for the initiative when encouraging you to ask your government and MEPs to act and save the initiative.