A proposed law extending the rights of pregnant women and nursing mothers has been approved by the German government. Women enrolled in universities and working in internships would benefit from the law.
A bill proposed by German Family Affairs Minister Manuela Schwesig was approved by the German government on Wednesday.
Schwesig's proposal would introduce changes to Germany's maternity protection legislation by expanding the laws to include groups of women not explicitly covered and attempting to reduce bureaucratic red tape.
A bulletin posted to the Family Affairs Ministry website said the proposal updates maternity laws that mostly date back to 1952.
"With these changes, we are adapting maternity protection laws to today's realities," Schwesig said in the article.
School and university students, women working as interns, and women pursuing vocational training are now covered by the maternity protection laws.
Streamlining maternity protection
In addition, separate existing health and safety regulations aimed at protecting expecting mothers and their unborn children are now to be included in the maternity protection law.
The Ministry hopes this will lead to increased awareness and observance of the health and safety regulations pertaining to pregnant women.
Under the proposed law, a new committee will be established to take on board recommendations pertaining to maternity protection and also to advise women, employers and local officials on the details of the laws.
Under Germany's current maternity protection law (Mutterschutzgesetz), expecting women and women with newborns are offered certain protections pertaining to their health, safety and employment.
The law states that women cannot work from six weeks prior to their expected due date until eight weeks after delivery. The new law loosens these regulations and allows women to take less time off work if they choose.
In addition, the period of maternity protection is extended to 12 weeks for women who give birth to children with a disability.
Women covered under Germany's maternity protection laws cannot be terminated by their employer during their pregnancy and for the four months afterwards.
In addition, for the period when women are not allowed to work, expecting mothers are entitled to payouts through their public health insurance of up to 390 euros per month ($448). Any additional difference between the payout and a woman's normal monthly net income is covered by the woman's employer.
The law is still subject to approval by German parliament, but this is likely to be a formality. The Family Affairs Ministry has said it expects the law to come into force on January 1, 2017.