European maternity laws to be blocked by UK

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

A row is brewing in Europe this week – nothing new in that! Except this row could be one of the most important decisions the European Parliament ever makes.

European Union flag

Set to vote this week on increasing maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks, the UK is planning to vote against the legislation, which would then block the laws being passed.

The British Conservative government is, predictably, concerned about alienating big business. This move could cost British businesses more than £2.5bn a year.

Woe betide any Tory that suggests that these costs are a small price to pay for a more mature approach to childcare.

So many problems with family life and gender relations across the UK are caused by biased childcare policies. The very talk of “maternity leave” places childcare, and issues to do with children firmly with women.  Plus a policy such as this, however well meaning, will undoubtedly make some employers think twice about employing young women of – and I hate this phrase so forgive me – “child bearing age”.

I appreciate that paternity leave (and maternity leave for that matter) in Europe is already bounds ahead many countries in the world – but isn’t it time to build on that success? Instead of just piling more time onto existing maternity leave, with an unreasonable cost on business, why doesn’t the EU instead make a commitment to allow a certain amount of allocated paternal leave, to be divided between mother and father as seen fit within that family.

Women in the UK currently get 12 months off, with the first six weeks on 90% pay, then 33 weeks on just under £125 a week of statutory maternity pay from the state.  

This site is a brilliant tool for comparing which countries offer what in terms of maternity leave – with Sweden leading the way with 450 days paid parental leave; 360 days at 75%, and 90 days flat rate

A flexible paternity-maternity leave approach like this makes the most sense for families and would have wide-reaching implications for women, making it less likely they would have to face a decision between putting their career on the backburner for a few years or have a family.

It’s time the state stopped putting business ahead of the welfare of its citizens.

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