The commissioners in Brussels want new mothers in all 27 nations to have at least 18 consecutive weeks on full-pay in the hope that it will become easier for them to return to work after the birth.
The proposals should make it easier for women to transfer time-off either side of the birth itself.
At the moment, a European law from 1992 gives mothers a minimum 14 weeks off guaranteed with full pay.
In Germany, that’s exactly what they get.
Other EU members are more generous, though.
Britain and Bulgaria go even further, well beyond the new proposed 18 weeks.
Swedish families enjoy an even better deal, with almost a year and a half of not maternal, but parental leave – that is, time-off which can be transferred between mother and father.
The Swedish system appears to be a world away from the 18 weeks on the table in Brussels.
But already, business representatives have criticised the Commission’s plans for an increase across the 27 nations, saying there are other ways of balancing family and work life without harming companies.
Gerhard Huemer, Director for Economic and Fiscal Policy at the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises said:
“We don’t like this proposal because it costs additional money for enterprises, especially for small enterprises. Secondly we don’t believe that this will really help women to better balance their work and family life. For this purpose, it will be much important to have better offers of child care facilities, more flexible work time arrangements and offer of parental leave for women.“ .
A lack of creche places is another major obstacle to a woman’s entry into the jobs market according to the Commission. Brussels wants at least a third of children under 3 years old to have access to a place by 2010.
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