EESC opinion: Promoting the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding

Key points

The Committee:

  • Supports the Commission's legislative proposal as an initiative that protects and supports motherhood.
  • Considers unsafe working conditions during pregnancy and breastfeeding unacceptable. Women should make their pregnancy known as soon as possible, so that any risk regarding health and safety can be assessed and eliminated.
  • Pleads for extra support for mothers and infants with special needs or who find themselves in special circumstances.
  • Agrees with the Commission's proposal that a minimum paid maternity leave of 18 weeks should be guaranteed to all pregnant employees. However, it recommends seeking for additional legal and practical solutions, which, in terms of space and time, can facilitate breastfeeding after that period.
  • Agrees that women should have the flexibility to choose when they will take their maternity leave. However, it recommends that, in the interest of their newborn, at least six weeks of it be taken after giving birth to breastfeed and to forge a strong bond with the child.
  • Insists on giving women returning from maternity leave the right to request a flexible working time arrangement.
  • Considers that sick leave during pregnancy should not have any impact on the whole duration of maternity leave, but urges the Commission to precise which exact period before confinement is meant in its proposal.

  • Welcomes the suggestion that Member States should take the necessary measures to protect pregnant or breastfeeding workers from consequences of unlawful dismissal.
  • Agrees that women have the right to return to employment, to the same or an equivalent post retaining the same terms and conditions.
  • Strongly supports that payment during maternity leave be equal to the previous salary.

  • Thinks that parental leave should follow maternity leave, as the latter is essential for breastfeeding.

  • Believes that, given the lack of childcare facilities, the role of grandparents and wider family members as carers and childminders should be given greater consideration.
  • Urges policy makers to take an holistic approach of the matters at stake, mainly: demographic issues, labour market needs, reconciliation of working/family life and the best interests of the child.
  • Believes that, alongside governments, social partners and civil society organisations have an active part to play to help implementing the new directive.