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MEPs urge ministers to agree on maternity leave directive, to make life easier for pregnant and breastfeeding women©BELGAIMAGE/MONKEY  

MEPs pressed the European Commission not to withdraw a draft EU directive on maternity leave, despite four years’ deadlock over it in the EU Council of Ministers, in a resolution voted on Wednesday. They also urged the ministers to resume talks and agree an official position.

MEPs reiterate their willingness to help break the deadlock and call on the Commission to work to reconcile the positions of Parliament and the Council, in a resolution passed by 419 votes to 97, with 161 abstentions.

"What kind of Europe are we living in, if those who create life here are penalised? What kind of Europe are we living in, if giving birth is synonymous with poverty? We cannot help mothers by simply throwing away this directive”, said rapporteur Maria Arena (S&D, BE). Since 1992, when the maternity leave directive was approved, we have made no progress. Women can't wait, they deserve, if they so wish, to be women, mothers and workers at the same time without being discriminated", she added.

If the Commission does withdraw the draft, then MEPs urge it to table a new legislative initiative before the end of the year.

Paternity leave

Parliament also reiterates its call to entitle fathers to at least ten working days’ paternity leave,  in addition to the mother's leave.

Background for editors

Maternity leave is regulated at EU level by the 1992 directive, which lays down a minimum of 14 weeks. In October 2008, the Commission proposed to review the current legislation (Directive 92/85), as part of the "work-life balance" package, based on the International Labour Organisation's Maternity Protection Convention of 2000.

In October 2010 the European Parliament closed its first reading and submitted the amended legislation to the Council to extend maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks on full pay and introduce two weeks’ fully paid paternity leave. 


The Council has yet to state any position on this issue.

The Commission announced its intention to withdraw the proposal as part of its Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT).

  • Current EU legislation: minimum 14 weeks, including 2 after birth 
  • Commission proposal: minimum18 weeks, including 6 after birth 
  • EP proposal: minimum 20 weeks, including 6 after birth 
  • Only 11 EU member states currently allow 20 weeks 
  • Fathers currently get at least two weeks’ paternity leave in 13 member states, but on full pay in only seven.