Should Maternity Leave be Expanded?

Ethics and Social Welfare 6 (2):206-212 (2012)
Abstract
On 20 October 2010, the European Parliament proposed to give all women in the European Union (EU) minimally 20 weeks fully paid maternity leave, and to introduce a legal right for all fathers to 2 weeks fully paid paternity leave. In many other countries, individuals and groups are advocating for longer maternity leave, longer paternity leave, and/or longer parental leave. In this paper, I argue for two principles that proposals of maternity/paternity/parental leave systems should respect: the ?principle of non-discrimination? and the ?principle of balancing the interests of all affected parties?. The principle of non-discrimination requires that women should receive paid leave for the number of weeks that are needed as part of their pregnancy and to recover from childbirth, but that any additional weeks should be seen as birth leave rather than maternity leave, and be given on equal terms to men and women. The principle of balancing the interests of all parties suggests that it would be good for newborns, their parents, and for employers and society at large, that parents have enough time to spend with their children. To illustrate its practical relevance, I apply these principles to the current situation in the Netherlands and to the European Parliament's proposal to introduce a minimum of 20 weeks maternity leave and 2 weeks paternity leave
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