Self-employed women, assisting spouses and life partners of self-employed
workers, are granted a sufficient maternity allowance and a leave period of at
least 14 weeks should they choose to take it. This is the first time a
maternity allowance has been granted to self-employed workers at an EU
Assistant spouses and life partners of self-employed workers will have the
right to social security coverage (ie such as pensions) on an equal basis as
formal self-employed workers, if the member state offers such protection.
This will help provide a stronger social safety net and prevent women from
falling into poverty.
Member states may decide whether the maternity allowance and social
protection rights are granted on a mandatory or voluntary basis, ie upon
Member states have two years to introduce the legislation into their
national laws, ie by 5 August 2012. Only if there are particular
difficulties could this period be extended for another two years to implement
assisting spouses provisions.
The European Parliament approved the legislation on 18 May 2010 and EU
member states endorsed it on 7 June (
Self-employment is a significant – albeit minority – form of employment in
Europe, representing around 16% of the active population.
Around 11% of self-employed workers in Europe rely on the help of spouses
and partners who work on an informal basis in small family businesses, such as
a farm or a local doctor's practice. These assisting spouses are traditionally
completely dependent on their self-employed partner. As such, they are at a
high risk of poverty in the event of divorce, their partner’s death or
As far as employees are concerned, the EU adopted a new Directive improving
the right to parental leave (
IP/09/1854) in November 2009 and the Commission's proposal for a revised
Directive on maternity leave is currently in its first reading with the
European Parliament (
Life partners must be recognised under national law in order to fall under
the scope of the Directive.
Directive on equal treatment between self-employed men and women:
EU gender equality policy and legislation: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=418
Women and entrepreneurship:
For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973