Likely termination for EU maternity directive » SMEInsider

Likely termination for EU maternity directive

A long-stalled draft directive to strengthen maternity and paternity provisions, including entitlement to 20 weeks’ fully paid leave and better safeguarding of jobs on return, looks to be dropped by the EU Commission’s Regulatory and Fitness (REFIT) programme, according to a Euractiv report.

The purpose of REFIT is to simplify EU law and reduce red tape for businesses, in order to foster growth and create jobs. Since 2006, it has withdrawn 293 proposals that are considered outdated or lacking legislative support. The Maternity Leave Directive was fiercely opposed by UK ministers and the Department for Business and Skills, who claimed that it cost the UK economy up to £2 billion per year. In 2010, when the directive was first announced, the Institute of Directors said: “Some large businesses won’t mind the change because they are already gold-plating statutory maternity pay by making their own additional payments. But the effect on small firms, almost none of which can afford to supplement statutory maternity pay, would be very severe.”

Whilst dropping the plans might come as a relief to SMEs, many women’s rights groups are concerned. Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), said: “The threat to remove the Maternity Leave Directive from the legislative process is serious and undermines the democratic process of the European Parliament’s adopted position. This negates Europe’s rhetoric on its commitment to gender equality and effective work-life balance for women and men in Europe.”

Newly designated President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, agrees. “The decision to withdraw this Directive is scandalous as potential and pregnant women workers are being taken hostage but so too are men as the proposed directive also includes provisions on paternity leave,” he said.