A European parliamentary committee has approved the Pregnant Workers’ Directive, boosting minimum statutary benefits for expectant mothers.
But the cheers for better women’s rights in the workplace were tempered by groans from businesses. They say the proposal to give fathers two weeks leave on full pay will be costly.
“I think this is an important initiative to promote a healthy life-work balance, and healthy companies, families, and individuals,” says Socialist & Democratic MEP Edite Estrela.
Groups from all walks of life have campaigned for better parental rights but British members are leading the fight against, saying the package could cost British employers over 2 billion euros a year.
“ It’s the wrong time, we are going through a crisis and one of the things this proposal affects are small businesses, we have to remember that small businesses need flexibility to be able to work and this is taking it away, it is putting more legislation on companies that are already overburdened,” says Conservative & Reformist MEP Marina Yannakoudakis.
Rights vary widely across the EU. British fathers for example get a princely three days off for a newborn; elsewhere it is more generous.
Any European-wide agreement will in any case take a year to 18 months to finalise., While this may be a step forward in tackling declining birthrates the tricky subject of creche and daycare availability has been bypassed. Both are also significant employment barriers.