Nessa Childers MEP voiced her opposition to the announcement by the EU Commission that it will discard the proposed EU Maternity Directive.
The proposal was adopted by a large majority in the European Parliament in October 2010 and has remained blocked at the Council of EU Ministers by opposition from some Member States.
Its provisions include fully paid maternity leave for 20 weeks as well as two weeks of fully paid paternity leave and protection from dismissal.
Speaking from Strasbourg this evening, where a debate was held at the plenary session of the European Parliament to discuss the withdrawal of the Directive, Ms. Childers said:
“Letting such an important proposal fall through at the hands of some regressive Member State governments will represent a massive step backwards for the welfare of women, children and families. This will be a massive blow to gender equality in Europe.
“Women face a gender pay gap of over 16% and experience more forms of partial and precarious work than men.
“If we keep refusing to set a decent standard across the EU in terms of maternity rights, we will keep compounding the disadvantages women face in the labour market, at a cost to society as a whole.
“I am sick of hearing conservative voices complaining about the modern lifestyles on birth rates only to see them opposing decent parental leave rights.
“We must stop counting pennies and looking at these kinds of issues as costs, while ignoring all the positive, wider effects that accrue to society as a whole, in the long term.
“We don’t question shovelling good money after bad at failed financial institutions, presumably in the wider interests of society at large. Why should we then baulk at what amounts to pennies, in comparison, to guarantee a minimum standard of assistance to families at a key moment in their lives?”