Extension of the length of maternity leave:
A significant social progress for women
The COMECE Secretariat welcomes the proposal made by the European Commission to extend the minimal length of maternity leave in the EU from 14 to 18 weeks. This proposal would allow women to achieve a better balance between work and family life, whilst guaranteeing greater fairness in wages between men and women. It would also contribute to slowing down the birth decrease in Europe.
The proposal to revise Directive 92/85/EEC on maternity protection is part of the ‘family package’ presented this 3 October by the European Commissioner for Social Affairs, Vladimir Spidla. In the light of the major variations in the length of maternity leave in the Member States, the minimum duration would be fixed at 18 weeks, with full salary and the guarantee of returning to an equivalent post at the end of the maternity leave. Another advance is: a mother returning to her job after maternity leave would have the right to benefit from flexible working hours. According to the Commission, this new Directive would improve the situation of women taking maternity leave in more than two-thirds of the Member States.
The COMECE Secretariat encourages Member States, moreover, to respect the commitments of Barcelona (2002) to set up by 2010 childcare facilities for at least 90% of children aged between 3 and the legal school age, and for at least 33% of children under 3.
The Secretariat of COMECE invites the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to consider the balance between work and family life as one of the key principles of European social policy, which should also be a guideline for other legislative proposals such as, for example, the current revision of the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC).