Those who walk around in one of the canteens of the European Parliament will easily find a high chair. And if you pay attention, you regularly see a MEP walking through the building with a stroller. Maybe a crazy place for babies, but it‘s not without reason.
The European Parliament still has no arrangement for women on maternity leave. That means that if a MEP is on leave, she cannot vote. According to the rules of parliament, only the elected politician or politician may vote. Parliamentarians should therefore not be temporarily replaced if they are ill or on leave. This can have major drawbacks, especially in the case of votes where every vote counts.
Lara Wolters, MEP for the PvdA, recently had a son and would still be on maternity leave in the Netherlands. But in the European Parliament, maternity leave has not yet been settled and that is why she is in Strasbourg this week. In this way, she prevents her voice from being lost.
With the help of her father and employees, Wolters tries to do her job as best as possible – with baby so:
Before the corona pandemic, MEPs always had to be physically present in order to cast a vote. Recently, digital voting was temporarily allowed, making it a little easier. But it still means that a MEP can’t really go on maternity leave because she needs to keep track of her files closely in order to vote.
For many MEPs, it is a thorn in the eye, because in many EU countries it has already been arranged. Six countries, like the European Parliament, have not arranged anything: these are Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Cyprus.
Father and parental leave too?
To change the rules, EU countries must agree to amend the European electoral law. It has been talking about it for years, but for the time being that has not led to change. Parliament and EU countries point to each other for the reasons.
Still, the pressure to change the electoral law is growing. In the meantime, maternity leave is no longer just being discussed; for example, a growing number of MEPs want to include paternity and parental leave in the law.
CDA MEP Jeroen Lenaers is a supporter of paternity leave. Last year, he became a father for the first time and he would have liked to take leave. Bert-Jan Ruissen, MEP for the SGP, is also a supporter. But presumably a lot of babies will still be born before the rules change.