With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for mothers.
Despite progress on gender equality, mothers are generally still the primary carers in the family. If they have young children, they are more likely to be unemployed than women without children, while the opposite is true for men. The EU is committed to gender equality and aims to narrow this gap. It also aims to improve leave provisions for both parents, so that they are better able to combine work and private life.
Thanks to EU law, all EU countries have common minimum standards for maternity leave: minimum 14 weeks, two of which are mandatory, paid at least as much as sick pay. Pregnant and breastfeeding workers are also entitled to protection against working conditions that would jeopardise their health and that of their babies, and against dismissal from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of their maternity leave. Each parent is entitled to at least 4 months’ parental leave. One month of this is in principle non-transferrable, with the aim of encouraging uptake by fathers. Under EU law, the rights to protection from discrimination and job security also apply to parental leave, meaning that mothers are entitled to return to the same or equivalent job when the leave ends. Before all these changes, some countries did not satisfy EU standards and had to improve their legislation.
The EU is now working on improving the status of mothers through new rules and enforcement of the existing ones on leave, especially regarding protection against dismissal. It is also encouraging countries to improve the accessibility and quality of early childhood education and care systems.
- EPRS publication on Maternity, paternity and parental leave in the EU, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2017/599323/EPRS_BRI(2017)599323_EN.pdf
- European Commission’s Directorate General for Justice website, https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/justice-and-fundamental-rights/discrimination/gender-equality/equal-economic-independence_en
- European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion website, http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1311&langId=en