Parents must not be punished but given the right to choose

The European Commission has proposed a new directive to the European Parliament and the European Council entitled 'A New Start to Support Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers'. The official, compulsory feedback period will end at the end of June. EPA has made a public contribution to the initiative in line with the clearly expressed wish of parents all over Europe. The proposal can be found here. Read EPA's short feedback below.

It was timely that the EC has restarted dealing with the issue of parental leave after dropping the Maternity Leave Directive that bore the full support of parents' associations around Europe. However the new initiative has failed to listen to the voice of 150 million parents - represented by the European Parents' Association - raised in 2015 in a reconciliation package that is available here: http://euparents.eu/balancing-work-and-family-life/

In the ECEC policy paper (available here http://euparents.eu/best-interest-young-child/) the European Parents' Association published in April 2017, based on the overwhelming support never experienced before of national parents' associations from 31 countries 27 EU countries among them, parents have reinforced their demand for free choice. If economic research shows that European economies can only support 8 months of leave, no restrictions should be introduced with regards to who can take the leave.

This would also be in line with the WHO recommendations that advise mothers to breastfeed only until the baby reaches the age of 6 month (while maintaining breastfeeding until at least the end of the first year), that is not possible if the mother cannot be on maternal leave for a minimum of 6 months.

While parents around Europe acknowledge the importance of bonding with the father, we cannot support an initiative that does not consider the health of the child. In addition to that, we believe leave policies as well as ECEC policies should be based on the right to choose and the right to opt out. Families where the mother (or one of the mothers in same sex families) decide to stay at home for the longest possible period and the other parent decides to work, the family must not be punished for their decision, especially as the minimum of 6 months, but rather 1 year of maternity leave is for the best interest of the child and the child's health.

Reading the report on the public consultation it is clear that the EC has not taken it into consideration the representativeness of NGOs contributing to the public consultation and translated the results to basic statistics. It is important to mention here that parents, the people affected by the initiative who raised their voice against discrimination and restriction of rights disguised as 'equal access to the labour market'.

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