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EU aims to remove deadlock on maternity leave

Members of the European Parliament will vote this week on a resolution urging member states to resume negotiations on maternity leave rules. 26 May 2015

Rules on maternity leave vary widely between EU countries, but plans to harmonise the rules have been blocked by national governments since 2008, when the text of a maternity leave directive was rejected, the Parliament said in a statement.

The minimum period for maternity leave in the EU has been set at 14 weeks since 1992, the Parliament said. This includes two compulsory weeks, and a financial allowance that is set by national legislation.

The Commission proposed in 2008 that this be revised, setting the minimum at 18 weeks, including six compulsory weeks and an allowance "the equivalent of a fully salary" but subject to a ceiling to be determined by the member state.  

In 2010, a further proposal suggested that maternity leave be extended to at least 20 fully-paid weeks after birth, of which six would be compulsory.

However, the proposals have continued to be blocked by member states, the Parliament said. 

In December 2014 the Commission gave the Parliament and the Council a further six months to reach an agreement, EU Bulletin said. If there is no further agreement, the proposal will be scrapped.

Currently, the duration of leave in EU countries varies from 14 weeks to 28, and in some circumstances up to 52 week, although not all of this is fully paid, the Parliament said

Employees in the UK were given new rights to shared parental leave and pay in late 2014. Parents of babies due or adopted on or after 5 April 2015 are entitled to share up to 50 weeks of leave, and receive statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) in respect of up to 39 weeks of that leave. ShPP is paid at the rate of £139.58 a week or 90% of the employees average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

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