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Germany pans EU proposal for longer maternity leave

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Germany pans EU proposal for longer maternity leave
Photo: DPA
17:55 CET+01:00
The European Union has proposed increasing minimum maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks, but the German Family Ministry told The Local on Tuesday that current rules are sufficient despite the country's meagre birthrate.

The proposal from last October – now awaiting deliberation by the European Parliament – suggests that requiring longer paid maternity leave will help achieve a better “work-life balance for all Europeans.”

But German Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, herself a mother of seven, has spoken out against the proposal, saying it would be too expensive for employers.

“We have our doubts about the proposal,” Family Ministry spokesman Hanno Schäfer told The Local on Tuesday. “Our rules accommodate the protection of the mother's health, and an extension of maternity leave would make it difficult for women to go back to work.”

Germany's required maternity leave is much shorter than several other European countries such as Bulgaria, which boasts a lengthy 45-week break for new moms, newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported this week.

But increasing time off for new baby bonding is simply not feasible, according to Berlin.

“It's hard on the employers,” Schäfer told The Local. “Women here do have the option to take up to three years off and still get their jobs back, but only the most important 14 first weeks can be financed – and with the current economic situation it's not going to get easier for them to go back to work.”

Increasing maternity leave by one month could cost employers an additional €500 million per year, head of the BDA employers alliance told Der Spiegel, adding that he rejects the proposal in its current form.

The proposal has been met with criticism in other EU countries as well, opposition that will create roadblocks that could last up to two years, the magazine wrote.

Starting in January 2007, Germany instituted parental leave benefits that pay mothers two-thirds of their salaries for up to 12 months. If both parents take time off that rises to 14 months.

The new scheme seemingly caused a slight increase in Germany's birthrate, however, at 1.4 children per woman it is still far too low to keep the country's population from shrinking.

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