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MEPs vote to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks

MEPs voted today to extend the minimum length of maternity leave throughout the EU from 14 to 20 weeks (fully paid).  They also voted for an entitlement to at least two weeks' fully paid paternity leave.  The European Parliament's position on the amendment to the EU directive was drafted by Portuguese MEP Edite Estrela on behalf of the Parliament's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee.  With some amendments, the position was adopted by 390 votes to 192 (with 59 abstentions).

The European Commission's initial proposal suggested extending the minimum length of maternity leave throughout the EU from 14-18 weeks, but MEPs have suggested extending this leave to 20 weeks, with one condition: according to amendments adopted by MEPs today, in Member States which already have family-related leave in place would be allowed some flexibility.  MEPs agreed with the Commission's proposal that out of the total maternity leave, 6 weeks should be taken after childbirth.

Workers on maternity lave must be fully paid, according to MEPs, and that payment must be 100% of the last monthly salary they were paid or an average of their monthly salary.  The European Commission's proposal suggested that full payment should only be compulsory for the first six weeks of maternity leave.   Full payment after the first six weeks was also recommended by the Commission, but was not to be compulsory.

Portuguese MEP Edite Estrela, who drafted the European Parliament's position on this EU directive, said that 'maternity leave cannot be regarded as a burden on social security systems, it is an investment in our future.'

Paternity leave
Although some MEPs argued that paternity leave was outside of the scope of this law (entitled 'health and safety of pregnant women'), MEPs eventually voted to ask EU Member States to give fathers the right to fully paid paternity leave for at least two weeks.

Employment rights
MEPs also adopted amendments to ban the dismissal of pregnant workers from the beginning of a pregnancy until at least 6 months following the end of maternity leave.  MEPs have said that women must also be entitled to return to 'equivalent posts' after their maternity leave.

For the final 10 weeks of pregnancy, MEPs have voted to ensure that women must not be obliged to perform night duty or overtime during the 10 weeks prior to childbirth and during the entire period of breastfeeding.

Speaking during the debate, Reverse link define here :reverse_link_8_Irish_pol_groupsSocialist Party MEP Reverse link define here :reverse_link_6bis-MEPsJoe Higgins said that he strongly supported the Parliament's position.  He spoke of the importance of ensuring that mothers could return to work 'without fear of discrimination.'

Reverse link define here :reverse_link_8_Irish_pol_groupsFine Gael MEP Reverse link define here :reverse_link_6bis-MEPsSeán Kelly said that 'we have to be realistic.'  He pointed out that 'if all these proposals are taken into consideration, women will never get a chance to be employed.'


For further information, please contact Eimear Ní Bhroin, Press Officer at 086 8559423 or