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EU law to offer maternity leave to the self-employed

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The EU is set to update a directive which will offer maternity leave rights to self-employed women or to the spouses of the self-employed.

According to the change to the law, self-employed women, or the spouses or life partners of self-employed business owners, should be entitled to the same social protection rights as other workers.

In this case, it means 14 weeks of maternity leave allowance.

The Council of the EU said that, although spouses and partners are not employees, they do help self-employed businesses in such areas as farming, small firms and the liberal professions.

Self-employed workers, and self-employed workers who assist their partners, could either be given the opportunity to pay to join a social coverage scheme or could be forced to do so.

In practice, this may mean not so much a leave period itself as an allowance. The statement went on to say that pregnant women would be entitled to “sufficient maternity allowance to cover interruptions at their work of at least 14 weeks’ maternity leave”.

The Council said that it would be up to individual member states to decide whether paying for membership of social insurance schemes (covering maternity leave) should be mandatory for self-employed women or whether the system should be voluntary.

The Council is set to adopt the amendments on 7 June. Member states will then have two years to implement the changes to the directive.