Proposals for 20 weeks’ maternity leave on full pay

NEW mothers would get 20 weeks of maternity leave on full pay under proposals agreed by the European Parliament’ women’s rights committee.

At present Irish women are entitled to 26 weeks with a guaranteed sum of between €225 and €270 a week from the state.

About half of women on maternity leave in Ireland have the balance paid by their employers, a further 30% receive some additional money while 19% do not according to a survey two years ago.

The MEPs also want two weeks’ paternity leave fully paid. At present Ireland has parental leave that can be taken by the father or mother, but it is unpaid.

The British government and employers groups are battling against the proposal and claim that it would cost up to £2 billion (2.2bn). Women in Britain are entitled to a year off with the first six weeks at 90% of their salary and 33 weeks on £123.

Last May the European Parliament voted down proposals for the minimum maternity leave to be extended from 14 to 20 weeks with just six on full pay and the rest at a minimum of 85% of pay.

The MEPs sent it back to the women’s rights committee but last night they voted to extend the full pay to the full 20 weeks of leave. Dutch member of the committee, Marije Cornelissen, said, “This is a step towards the 24 weeks recommended by the World Health Organisation. In a context where risky speculation has destabilised the economy, parental leave is one sure investment for the future.”

The proposals will come before the Parliament next month but it and the member states are unlikely to accept it.

Maternity benefit was reduced in the budget when social welfare rates were cut by 4.1%. This meant a loss of between €4.50 and €10 a week for women from January 1 this year.


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