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Thursday, 8 January 2009


In October the European Commission announced a work-life legislative package that will review existing EC legislation on the rights of parents, pregnant women and new mothers at work. Reports are now being drafted by the European Parliament Women's Committee. This legislation will have a very positive impact on the lives of women across Europe and I am very pleased to have the opportunity of being involved in this important work.

You may be interested to read a summary of the current legislation regarding the rights of pregnant women and new mothers in Europe. I am proud that the EU has always led the way on this equality legislation.

Pregnant workers’ directive (1992/85/EEC)

This legislation gives women:

  • Right to minimum 14 weeks maternity leave
  • Right to guaranteed income during at least 14 week maternity leave
  • Rights to specialised health and safety laws in the workplace whilst pregnant and breastfeeding
  • Protection meaning they cannot be dismissed whilst on maternity leave
  • Rights to employment contract ensured whilst on maternity leave

The Commission's new proposals for this legislation include:

  • Increase in the minimum maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks (as suggested by the ILO)
  • Increase flexibility regarding when leave is taken (i.e. before or after the birth)
  • Improved employment protection on return to work. Woman will have right to return to same / equivalent job and right to benefit from any improvement in working conditions to which she would have been entitled in her absence.

The Parliament is also revisiting the Self-employed workers' directive (1986/613/EEC) to ensure that self-employed parents are entitled to the same parental leave rights as other workers.

Equal treatment (employment) directive (2002/73/EC)

This fairly recent legislation is not currently being updated by the Commission. But it already:

  • Prohibits discrimination against pregnant women and women on maternity leave
  • Ensures the right to return to same / equivalent post after maternity leave. Denying this right is defined as discrimination.
  • Allows women to take their cases to employment tribunal because this unfair practice is defined as discrimination.

The Women's Committee has just written a review of the implementation of this directive which we will be voting on next week in Strasbourg. I will blog on how this goes.

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