Pregnant Workers and Parental Leave : Directive 92/85/EEC and Directive 2010/18/EU

In the following post I will briefly outline the core of two important EU Directives – Directive 92/85/EEC and Directive 2010/18/EU respectively. These are extremely relevant. In fact, their aim is to protect a particular group of workers that may be otherwise discriminated within their working places.

Pregnant workers

Within the European Union,  many  areas have specific guidlines and Directives to prevent abuses or discrimination. There is no exception for pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth and women who are breastfeeding. Under the Directive 92/85/EEC , in fact, they are recognized as a specific risk group, and their health and safety are protected. Maternity leave and antidiscrimination in the workplace are also protected by law. More precisely, the legislation on equal treatment in employment and occupation is, in this sense, a greater mean to protect discrimination on grounds of pregnancy.

However, all European member states must ensure that, for example, women may not be obliged to perform night work during their pregnancy and for a period following childbirth. Instead, they should be transferred to daytime work, excused from work or given extended maternity leave.

Then, pregnant workers may take leave from work without loss of pay to attend ante-natal examinations during working hours. Maternity leave must last at least 14 weeks before and/or after delivery.

From the beginning of their pregnancy to the end of their maternity leave, women may not be fired for reasons related to their condition. If a dismissal occurs, the employer must give good grounds. This is a way of preventing unlawful dismissal.

Furthermore, employment rights  must be ensured – including the maintenance of a payment to, and/or entitlement to an adequate allowance for such workers.

Parental leave

The Directive 2010/18/EU implements an earlier Directive on parental leave. It now sets out minimum requirements on parental leave and time off from work on grounds of force majeure. European Social Partners (BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC) developed a framework agreement on parental leave. The aim is to reconcile work and family life and to promote equal opportunities for men and women in the labour market. The core of this directive are  minimum requirements on parental leave for male and female workers, and related employment protection.

As a consequence of this new Directive, male and female workers have now the chance to take care of the child for at least four months. Then, on the grounds of the birth or adoption of a child, they are entitled to parental leave and at least one of the four months is reserved for each parent. This means that this period of time cannot be transferred to other parent.

In applying for or taking parental leave, workers cannot be discriminated. At the end of parental leave, they have the right to return to the same job or an equivalent with their employment contract.

For a defined period, they also have the possibility to ask for changes to their working hours.

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