European Scrutiny Committee Contents


2 Maternity leave

(30022) 13983/08 COM(08) 637

+ ADDs 1-2

Draft Directive amending Council Directive 92/85/EEC 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

Commission staff working documents: impact assessment and summary of assessment

Legal baseArticles 137(2) and 141(3) EC; co-decision; QMV
DepartmentBusiness, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 31 March 2009
Previous Committee ReportHC 16-xxxiv (2007-08), chapter 2 (5 November 2008)
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested

Previous scrutiny

2.1 When we considered this draft Directive in November 2008,[6] we noted that the Council had adopted the Pregnant Workers Directive in 1992 to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding.[7] Among other things, the Directive established minimum entitlements to maternity leave and maternity pay and prohibited dismissal during the period from the beginning of a pregnancy until the end of maternity leave (save in exceptional cases not connected with the worker's pregnancy).

2.2 In its explanatory memorandum on the draft Directive, the Commission said that amendments to the Pregnant Workers Directive to increase the minimum period for maternity leave, increase maternity pay and give pregnant workers additional protection are proportionate ways to improve the health and safety of women, help them reconcile their work and family obligations and promote equal opportunities between men and women in employment.

2.3 The draft Directive proposes extensive amendments to the 1992 Directive, such as increasing the minimum period of maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks and requiring that the monthly maternity pay a woman receives will provide her with an income equivalent to her monthly salary in the month before her maternity leave begins (or her average monthly salary).

2.4 The Minister for Employment Relations at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Mr Pat McFadden) told us that the Government agreed with the Commission's aim of ensuring that parents have the support they need to reconcile their work and family responsibilities. To that end, the UK has already put on the statute book legislation which gives pregnant workers entitlements which go beyond most of the minimum requirements of the 1992 Directive and the proposed Directive. The UK's legislation has been carefully developed in close consultation with parents and their employers. This has enabled the UK to build on the EC's requirements and ensure the UK's provisions are tailored to the UK's conditions. Any action at EU level should respect and protect the agreements the Government has reached in consultation with workers and employers. The Government was concerned about some of the provisions of the draft Directive and would seek clarification of them. The Government would also prepare its own Impact Assessment of the proposals and hold public consultations on them.

2.5 We concluded that the aims of the proposed Directive were reasonable and that the legal bases for it seemed appropriate. The Government had a number of questions and doubts about the draft Directive which appeared to us to be legitimate and on which it would be seeking clarification from the Commission. Accordingly, we asked the Minister for progress reports on the negotiations and reports on his Department's public consultations. Meanwhile, we kept the document under scrutiny.

The Minister's letter of 31 March 2009

2.6 The Minister encloses with his letter a copy of his Department's consultation paper on the proposal to amend the Pregnant Workers Directive 1992. The purpose of the negotiations is to inform the Government's negotiations in the Council and ensure that the concerns of employers, employees and families are represented. Views are invited by 22 June.

2.7 The consultation paper includes the draft of the Government's Impact Assessment of the Directive. The draft suggests that the annual cost of the proposals, if the Directive were adopted, might be £3.7 million a year for the Exchequer; £759,000 to £843,000 for small businesses; £1.6 million to £1.7 million a year for large businesses; and £611,000 to £6.9 million a year to individuals. The total annual benefits might be £442,000 to £506,000. The Department invites comments on the draft of the Impact Assessment.

Conclusion

2.8 We are grateful to the Minister for sending us the consultation paper. We should be interested to learn the responses to it. So we should be grateful if the Minister would send us a summary of them.

2.9 We also look forward to receiving the Minister's progress reports on the negotiations. Meanwhile, we shall keep the draft Directive under scrutiny.





6   See HC 16-xxxiv (2007-08), chapter 2 (5 November 2008). Back

7   Council Directive 92/85/EEC: OJ No. L 348, 28.11.92, p.1. Back


 
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