Dutch government opposes longer EU parental leave

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The new Dutch coalition government says it opposes a European Parliament vote on Wednesday to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks and paternity leave to two weeks in all EU countries

The Euro-MPs’ decision goes beyond the European Commission’s proposed extension to 18 weeks. The parliament will now have to negotiate a compromise with the member states.

At present Dutch women are entitled to just 16 weeks maternity leave on full pay. Fathers can take a mere two paid days off when their partner gives birth, a provision that trails behind that of many other European countries.

MP Malik Azmani of the free-market VVD party, the senior coalition partner, said his party has always been against longer statutory parental leave because it isn’t necessary for health reasons. “It doesn’t help more women into employment and it comes at the expense of employers, who have to continue salary payments,” he said.

The Christian Democrat party, the junior coalition partner, has previously said it was open to the idea of extending parental leave in principle. However, the party now says the EU move goes too far, as it would cost the Netherlands an estimated 500 million a year at a time when government is making cutbacks and businesses are still recovering from the economic crisis.

Christian Democrat MP Eddy van Hijum said there was no need for the European Union to set a compulsory EU-wide level of parental leave, and the matter should be left up to individual member states.

The opposition Labour, D66 and Green Left parties all welcome the European Parliament vote. According to Green Left MP Inneke van Gent, “The two paltry days of paternity leave fathers have in the Netherlands are outdated.”  

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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