Maternity leave in EU countries should increase, according to a vote in the European Parliament, from a regulatory minimum of 14 weeks to 20 weeks, on full salary.
But tough negotiations between the Parliament and the EU member states’ governments are to be expected, as those such as the UK, France and Germany are against the increase, which the European directive would make obligatory.
For them it is more than a matter of pink and blue celebration balloons. It is about finding the money, since a portion of maternity leave costs is born by national governments, and part by employers.
Maternity leave in 18 EU countries today is less than 20 weeks. The longest is in Sweden, where parents are entitled to 75 weeks with baby, divided between the mother and father.
But this is not just about the number of weeks, for example 26 in the UK, and 58 in cash-strapped Bulgaria: There are strong differences over the levels of income that EU rules would seek to guarantee.
The vote in the parliament also supported two weeks’ paid paternity leave.
Some analysts or opponents of the 2008 directive review warned that attempts to improve things for mothers could backfire, with companies reluctant to hire them. They say it could undermine gender equality efforts.