Europe IN 250 Words: We lose the solidarity of European social democrats at our peril.

Why working parents need European solidarity to secure their rights.

In the mid 1970s UK maternity leave arrangements were among the best in Europe. Progress ground to a halt in 1979 with the election of a Conservative Government, which immediately doubled the qualifying period for maternity leave, thereby ensuring that most women were ineligible. The Government then fought mightily against attempts by the European Union to introduce a directive guaranteeing a basic level of parental rights across Europe. Every state other than the UK was keen to implement it. Our veto was used to prevent its introduction because the Conservative government considered it to be a burden on business.

Finally in 1993, the UK Government was forced by Europe to extend maternity coverage to all women without a qualifying period. They did so grudgingly, offering the shortest possible period of leave and insisting that most of it should be taken before the baby was born (presumably to save employers the bother of having women give birth on the job).

Two years later Europe adopted a broader Parental Leave Directive via the social policy agreement of the Maastricht Treaty. But our Government opted out. By this time our parental leave arrangements were among the worst in Europe but the Government of the sixth largest economy in the world could find no reason to help working families.

The Labour Party ratified the agreement as one of its first actions after returning to power in 1997 continuing the reforms they had started in the 1970s.

The moral of this story is that, in the absence of a Labour government, only membership of the European Union can guarantee even the most basic rights for working parents. We lose the solidarity of European social democrats at our peril.

Read more here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *