Lena Ek, a liberal MEP from Sweden, informs today on her blog about the directive about a compulsory job leave for giving birth of 6 weeks in the EU. As a liberal she is questioning the fact that parents cannot decide for themselves and that a mother that wants to return to work earlier than after six weeks is prevented to do this.
I agree that it ought to be up to parents to decide but on the other hand it is in my humble opinion probably quite nice for most women to get some time off with the child after such a physiologically and psychologically exhausting adventure as a pregnancy. I was under the impression that nursing a child is a built in beneficial procedure for the development of the child as well as the parent-child relationship.
Apparently, just like in the burka debate, it is a question of protecting women in countries lacking proper regulations for parents to get leave of absence after pregnancies. This makes it difficult for a person not acquainted with all the details from the 27 member countries to really have an opinion on the compulsory nature of the directive. Applying a utilitarian approach, it just might be the case that many more women would be protected than women that want to get back to work before six weeks would be unhappy.
In some families it is perhaps better economically or careerwise that the husband stays home but as I said I don't think this would be a majority decision. Actually, I don't understand why which parent is not an optional choice for the sake of gender equality? Most women would probably stay at home anyway but it would leave an option open for ambitious women. I guess, the Continent is a little more conservative.
Update: Apparently the EUObserver and EurActive think it is a 20 week maternity leave. It is an interesting problem though since it pits biology against gender equality.
Update October 23, 2010: In today's editorial of Göteborgs Posten one finds the solution to the problem of 6 weeks or 20 weeks. You have to be home in six weeks but it is possible to stay home in 20 weeks.