"The Maternity Leave Directive must be kept alive" say S&D Euro MPs

S&D Euro MPs urged EU governments to keep working on the Maternity Leave Directive and to reach an agreement as soon as possible, during a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today. The European Commission recently decided to withdraw the text after four years of stalled discussions among member states.

S&D Group spokeswoman on women's rights and gender equality, Marie Arena (Belgium), said:

"It is shameful that the EU Council has been unable to reach a decision in the last four years. We urgently need to update the 1992 EU law on maternity leave to take into account the way our societies have evolved.

"It is crucial to protect the safety and health of pregnant women and to ensure they don't risk losing their jobs or face any form of discrimination. The fight for a better balance between work and private life has always been a priority for the Socialists and Democrats."

The European Parliament's new negotiator on the issue, S&D Euro MP Alessandra Moretti (Italy), added:

"At the beginning of this new legislature, we have the chance to build a new Europe that gives hope to its citizens. But how can we possibly speak about hope when a woman has to choose between giving birth to a new life or saving money to survive?

"Europe must invest in women and give them the chance to reconcile work with their private lives. Europe will be stronger and richer with women participating fully in the labour market.

"We have five years ahead of us to wake Europe up and get it on track for real progress and growth. We will start right now under the Italian Presidency."

Under the leadership of S&D Euro MP Edite Estrela, the European Parliament adopted an ambitious first-reading agreement in October 2010. The agreement states that every woman in Europe should be granted at least 20 weeks of fully paid maternity leave. It also proposes introducing two weeks of paternity leave.