Social Policy Council : Maternity Leave Allowances Improved for Self-Employed Workers
The employment ministers of the EU member states reached, on 30 November, a political agreement on the revision of Directive 86/613/EEC allowing self-employed female workers to have the same access to maternity leave as salaried workers, and assisting spouses to have access to the same social protection systems as formally self-employed workers. The text agreed will have to be discussed with the European Parliament, which had already adopted its first-reading report, in May 2009(1).
Under the political agreement, self-employed workers and assisting spouses (mainly women) are entitled to receive at least the same benefits as "normal" workers, which is currently 14 weeks of paid leave. The European Commission has, however, proposed - through the revision of another directive - to extend this to 18 weeks (92/85/EEC), but this is still under negotiation in the European Parliament and the Council. With regard to maternity leave allowances, the member states agreed that each country should be allowed to make individual decisions and to adjust their national legislation if needed.
"The text essentially addresses women and maternity leave. We did not want to touch national social security systems and encroach on national powers," concluded Nyamko Sabuni, the Swedish minister for integration and equal opportunities. During a debate between ministers, the Commissioner for Social Affairs, Vladimir Spidla, emphasised "the principle of equality between men and women," which has great importance during a period of economic crisis. …