EU employment law

EU laws on maternity rights and parental leave


There is European Union (EU) legislation covering:

  • the health and safety of pregnant women and women who've recently given birth
  • leave for employees who are parents of young children

Health and safety of pregnant women and those who've recently given birth

Under the EU's legislation in this area:

  • Pregnant workers have the right to attend ante-natal appointments during working hours on full pay.
  • Women are entitled to take at least 14 weeks maternity leave before and/or after childbirth - and must take at least two weeks leave before and/or after childbirth.
  • Employers must not dismiss a woman who is pregnant and/or on maternity leave except in exceptional circumstances not connected with pregnancy/maternity.

In addition:

  • You cannot expose a pregnant worker to chemicals, biological agents or a physical environment that would be dangerous or harmful to her or her baby's health.
  • You must avoid any risks to a pregnant woman by adjusting her working conditions or working hours. If you cannot do this, you must move her to another job. If this is not possible, she must be given paid time off.
  • Pregnant workers cannot perform night work during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth if this causes a risk to their health and safety. If it does, you must transfer them to daytime work. If this is not possible you must excuse them from work or start their maternity leave.

Parental leave

Under the EU legislation in this area, men and women have equal rights of at least 18 weeks' parental leave for each child.

There are also rules protecting them against dismissal if they take parental leave, as well as a right to return to the same, or a similar, job.

The law in individual member states

Each member state has implemented these two areas of law into its own legislation, so there may be local variations. Therefore, you should check the specific situation in the member state concerned.

You can get advice on local laws from the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). This is a network of business advice partner organisations across the EU. Find your nearest partner organisation.

Important: The UK has left the EU and there is now a transition period until the end of 2020. This information is still current but could change. Any changes will be documented here. For more information, see Brexit support for employers.