Maternity law

One of the great benefits of European Union-wide legislation is the enshrinement of gender equality in that legislation.

It therefore comes as a great disappointment to hear that the European Commission is considering the withdrawal of the Maternity Leave Directive, a directive which would ensure that women in all member states have the right to a minimum of 18 weeks maternity leave.

Although the directive would not directly affect women in the UK, it would ensure higher standards for women in countries including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

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The threat to withdraw the directive – on the grounds that it is “red tape”, would you believe – undermines the EU’s very commitment to gender equality and effective work-life balance for men and women in the EU.

Making such a move under the “better regulation agenda” would set a very worrying precedent: sacrificing social standards under the guise of “administrative burdens”.

Eighteen weeks maternity leave is an internationally accepted standard.

I believe better protection for pregnant workers is also needed for health and safety reasons, as well as to stop the rising tide of unfair dismissals of women when they inform their employer they are pregnant, or return to work after maternity leave.

We should be positively adopting this stronger Maternity Leave Directive, as it would benefit millions of EU families and send a positive message to people everywhere in Europe that the EU is committed to the upholding of their rights and to a more social and fairer Europe.

I will be working with my colleagues in the European Parliament and the trade union movement to defend it, to argue for negotiations to be resumed, and for its adoption by the European Commission.