Social Policy : Impact Study on Maternity Leave Eagerly Awaited

Article excerpt

After its adoption in the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights (FEMM), on 23 February, the report by Edite Estrela (S&D, Portugal) on maternity leave should normally have been put to the vote in the plenary of 25 March (first reading). This will not be the case. The vote has, in fact, been postponed until 18 May, in order to allow enough time to carry out the impact study demanded by the ECR group, on the costs and benefits of extending maternity leave to 20 weeks as anticipated by the Estrella report. A request for a postponement was also made by the S&D group, keen to reach a larger consensus in plenary.

While awaiting the results of this study, the various rapporteurs - Estrela and the shadow rapporteurs - had organised a workshop, on 24 March, to evaluate the situation with regard to this eminently controversial dossier.

In its 2008 proposal(1), the European Commission suggests extending maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks. This proposal is already considered to be excessive by some member states, which are protesting against the costs that such a measure would entail. The Commission also proposes that full salary be paid during the eighteen-week leave period, nevertheless leaving it up to the states to set a ceiling, which must not be lower than sickness benefit. It argues that an impact study evaluated the costs at 0.05% of Belgium's GDP, according to a Commission representative present at the workshop. …