More fathers should take parental leave to improve equality between men and women

Parental Maternity leave

S&D Euro MP Marie Arena today won a majority in the European Parliament on a progressive proposal to extend the minimum duration of parental leave from four to six months and to extend it to parents with children over eight years old.

Parental leave is defined as time off work after maternity/paternity leave which can be taken by both parents and entered into force in April 2010.

S&D Euro MP Marie Arena, who drafted the European Parliament's resolution, said after the vote:

"Today, several years after the introduction of parental leave in Europe, the European Parliament has looked at the lessons we can learn and what can be improved in order to increase participation of women in the labour market and work-life balance. Our message to the European Commission is clear: we want to improve and modernise parental leave. Currently the situation is far from satisfactory. Only 2.7% of fathers within the EU used parental leave in recent years and the right to parental leave is applied very differently from one country to another. It is therefore crucial to do more to increase the sharing of responsibilities between mothers and fathers across Europe in order to improve equality between men and women.

"We are calling to extend the duration of parental leave from four to six months, with decent pay rates. Parental leave must be an opportunity not an obstacle. Mums and dads should be able to take parental leave to take care of a child suffering from a serious illness without being penalised in their professional lives. We also want to increase the age limit so parents with older children can take parental leave.

"As Socialists and Democrats, we also believe that it is urgent to revise the Maternity Leave Directive and to allow at least a two weeks of paternity leave. The sooner new dads start to connect with their child the greater the chance that they will take parental leave and share responsibilities equally with their partner. All these measures are fundamental to finding a balance between professional and private life, which must be a key foundation for our modern societies."