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Europe

EU member states reject longer maternity leave

The EU Parliament's proposal to increase maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks has been rejected by member states, among them Germany. They also dismissed an increase to 18 weeks as proposed by the European Commission.

A woman with a child on her arm

No new regulations on maternity leave, say EU states

An EU-wide increase of the minimum maternity leave, from 14 to 20 weeks, now seems unlikely. A majority of the 27 EU member states rejected the idea on Monday, including Germany.

The European Parliament approved a proposal in October to give new mothers a paid leave of five months, but the member states must endorse the proposal as well.

German Family Minister Kristina Schroeder (CDU) said the German regulations on maternity leave and parental allowances now in place guarantee "one of the highest protection levels throughout Europe."

A longer 20-week maternity leave would lead to additional costs of 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) for Germany, she added. Members of the EU Parliament have said costs would not be as high since other models such as Germany's parental leave would be taken into account.

The EU Parliament's proposal was rejected by most EU states and called excessive. Most states were also skeptical about the EU Commission's compromise of an 18-week maternity leave.

Kristina Schroeder

Schroeder said 20 weeks of maternity leave would lead to extra costs

This topic will "need time," said Belgian Labor Minister Joelle Milquet. The Council of Ministers is currently chaired by Belgium, and the topic has now been postponed to 2011.

Germany has one of the shortest maternity leave periods

According to statistics, Germany is among the bottom of EU states when it comes to the length of maternity leave. Malta, Sweden and Germany are the only European countries with the minimum leave of 14 weeks.

But even though the leave period might be longer in other countries, new mothers do not always receive their full salary as they do in Germany. "If you consider all the benefits that young parents get in Germany, then this level is among the highest in Europe," said Schroeder.

EU family ministers have also demanded that regulations on paternity leave should not be mixed with the regulations concerning mothers.

"Fathers don't have to recover from pregnancy and childbirth," said Schroeder.

Author: Sarah Steffen (dpa, KNA)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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