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EU ministers attempt to shelve maternity leave directive

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Summary of story from EurActiv.com, June 17, 2011

A consortium of up to 11 European Union (EU) member states are set to freeze the Pregnant Workers Directive in its tracks when they meet today.

Under existing EU legislation, women workers are entitled to take at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave when they have a baby.

In a directive proposed two years ago, the European Commission suggested increasing this minimum from 14 to 18 weeks.

A large majority of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs)  then voted in October last year that this should be extended further to 20 weeks.

Following that decision, the Council held a policy debate in December last year in which eight member states registered reservations – a group which has now consolidated its opposition in order to freeze the legislation.

The Employment and Social Affairs Council is set to adopt a progress report today following discussions on amendments to the directive, yet the eight nation consortium (plus some additional member states) is expected to intervene.

The group say they are concerned about what they regard as maximum – not minimum – EU standards and tha lack of flexibility of the proposals with regards to the various maternity leave systems in the EU.

Another concern is that of the current economic climate, and the financial consequences of providing 20 weeks fully paid maternity leave to every pregnant woman.

Reacting angrily to the development, Danish MEP Britta Thomsen, spokesperson on women’s rights for the Socialists & Democrats group, said that she was shocked and warned that the Parliament could retaliate in kind.

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