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Professional, private and family life

Pregnant workers

Under EU legislation (Directive 92/85/EEC), pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth and women who are breastfeeding are recognised as a specific risk group, and their health and safety are protected.

The rules also cover maternity leave and discrimination in the workplace.

Discrimination on grounds of pregnancy is also covered by the legislation on equal treatment in employment and occupation.

All EU countries must ensure that the following rules are in place:

  • Women may not be obliged to perform night work during their pregnancy and for a period following childbirth (subject to submission of a medical certificate) - instead they should be transferred to daytime work, excused from work or given extended maternity leave.
  • Maternity leave must be for an uninterrupted period of at least 14 weeks before and/or after delivery (at least two weeks before delivery).
  • Pregnant workers may take leave from work without loss of pay to attend ante-natal examinations during working hours.
  • Women may not be dismissed for reasons related to their condition from the beginning of their pregnancy to the end of their maternity leave. In the event of dismissal, the employer must give good grounds in writing. Such workers must be protected from the consequences of unlawful dismissal.
  • The employment rights relating to the employment contract - including the maintenance of a payment to, and/or entitlement to an adequate allowance for such workers - must be ensured.

Following a wide public consultation, the Commission presented a 'reconciliation package' in October 2008 that includes among others a proposal to reinforce the maternity leave directive. This proposal is currently under discussion in Council and European Parliament.

Full text: Council Directive 92/85/EEC of 19 October 1992 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding

Parental leave

EU law (Directive 2010/18/EU) sets out minimum requirements on parental leave and time off from work on grounds of force majeure. It is based on a framework agreement on parental leave concluded by the European Social Partners (BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC). It revises and repeals an earlier Directive on parental leave.

The directive aims to reconcile work and family life and to promote equal opportunities for men and women in the labour market. It sets out minimum requirements on parental leave for male and female workers, and related employment protection.

Under the new provisions of the directive:

  • male and female workers have individual entitlement to parental leave on the grounds of the birth or adoption of a child, enabling them to take care of the child for at least four months ; at least one of the four months cannot be transferred to the other parent under any circumstances, i.e. it is reserved for each parent;
  • workers are protected from discrimination on the grounds of applying for or taking parental leave;
  • at the end of parental leave, workers must have the right to return to the same job or to an equivalent or similar job consistent with their employment contract or relationship;
  • they also have the right to request changes to their working hours for a limited period; in considering such requests, employers must balance the needs of the workers and the company.

All EU countries must apply the new rules by March 2012 at the latest.

Full text: Council Directive 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 implementing the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC and repealing Directive 96/34/EC

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