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Strasbourg, 20 October 2010

Paid Maternity Leave: European Commission to work on balanced compromise to advance mothers’ rights, following European Parliament vote

In a first reading, the European Parliament voted today on the European Commission's proposal to reform the 1992 Maternity Leave Directive (Directive 92/85/EEC). The Commission had proposed an increase in the minimum period of maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks and to pay women 100% of their salary during maternity leave, giving Member States the option to set a ceiling at the level of sick pay (IP/08/1450). The European Parliamentwants to give women full pay for 20 weeks of maternity leave and to introduce two weeks of fully paid paternity leave. This goes beyond the Commission’s proposal. The next step is for the Council of Ministers (which represents the interests of the 27 EU Member States) to take a position in first reading on the Commission’s proposal.

"Mothers’ rights are a key priority for the European Commission. If we want to move towards gender equality in the work place, we must find the right balance between concrete rights for mothers and the current economic realities facing businesses in the EU,” Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship said after the vote in Strasbourg. "The Parliament's vote in first reading today is very ambitious, but certainly will not make it easy to find a balanced compromise with the Council in the near future. The Commission stands ready to act as an honest broker to help the Council and the European Parliament achieve an agreement on this important Directive. Because I want to see mothers’ rights extended not only on paper but in real life. Ultimately, I would like to see a balanced text that keeps women in the job market while not putting too much burden on Member States’ finances, notably in a time when budgets are being cut across Europe. I also would like the final text of the Directive to include a clause that will allow Member States with a modern system of parental leave – which puts responsibility both on mothers and on fathers – to be able to keep and further develop this system. The reform of the Maternity Directive is just one step towards gender equality in Europe. This is why I will work with the Council and Parliament to help ensure that we take this step within a realistic time-frame.”

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