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MEPs call for action on maternity leave

MEPs have called on European Union (EU) member states to restart negotiations in a bid to harmonise rules on maternity leave.

Currently, the duration of maternity leave in EU countries varies from 14 weeks to 28 weeks and in certain cases up to 52 weeks, although not all are fully paid. There are also differences regarding the length of the compulsory period.

Maternity leave at an EU level is regulated by a 1992 directive, which sets the minimum period for leave at 14 weeks, including two compulsory weeks and an allowance determined by national legislation.

The European Commission had proposed a revision of the directive in 2008, setting the minimum duration of maternity leave at 18 weeks, including six compulsory weeks and an allowance amounting to a full salary. In 2010, MEPs approved a proposal to extend maternity leave to at least 20 fully paid weeks after birth, of which six are compulsory. However, the European Council, made up of the heads of state of the 28 EU members, has been blocking the moves for more than four years.

On 20 May, MEPs approved a resolution urging member states to resume talks and calling on the Commission – which had threatened to withdraw its proposal – not to do so or to present new legislative proposals before the end of the year.

The MEPs also repeated a call for fathers to be entitled to at least ten working days’ paternity leave, in addition to the mother’s leave.

In the UK, shared parental leave was introduced in April 2015, giving eligible couples the right to share up to 50 weeks of maternity or adoption leave and 37 weeks of maternity or adoption pay.