EU parliament extends maternity leave to 20 weeks with full pay

Three pregnant women looking forward to the benefits of maternity leave.

The European Union's vote to extend maternity leave puts parents first. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Carolyn Coles/Flickr)

The Guardian reports that after a prolonged political battle, the European Union has voted in favor of extending maternity leave benefits to 20 weeks with full pay for new mothers. While several EU member nations fought bitterly against the change – most notably Britain and Germany – a majority voted in favor of the legislation (390 to 192). The 20 weeks paid maternity leave provision is an amendment to the larger legislation, which passed by a mere seven votes (327 to 320).

Maternity leave ruling ‘a great day for new parents’

European parliament member Edite Estrela of Portugal told the Guardian that the new EU maternity leave policy signifies not only “a great day for new parents,” but it is “good news for (the EU’s) economic future.” The cost involved in enacting the legislation is considered minimal by Estrela, particularly if 1.4 percent more European women are able to join the workforce. The benefits of providing greater work-life balance – where the parent-child bond is a major step toward producing a happy, well-adjusted member of society – are priceless. The new maternity leave law also grants fathers two weeks of fully paid paternity leave.

Economic recession and maternity leave law recipe for disaster, says U.K.

Cuts in public spending have run rampant across the EU, and the same holds true in the U.K. The most recent round of budget cuts is reportedly the most dramatic since World War II. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the U.K. is concerned about the timing of setting aside even more cash for maternity leave. The current statutory maternity leave pay plan in Britain is stretched over one year, but the pay scale downgrades sharply. Ninety percent of average weekly salary is paid the first six weeks, then a flat weekly rate of approximately £125 ($198) is paid over the next 33 weeks. The final 13 weeks of the maternity leave year are unpaid, but state benefits still apply.

According to the British business lobby, the new EU maternity leave plan, full pay for 20 weeks, will “cost an extra £2.5 billion ($3.97 billion)” annually, which the lobby believes will hamstring small business and weaken the chances that women of traditional childbearing age will find jobs.

Sources

Guardian

96 weeks paid maternity leave in Sweden

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