New maternity protection leave introduced

May 2008 saw the publication of new legislation in Greece introducing six months of special maternity protection leave, in addition to normal maternity leave and the existing entitlement of working mothers to reduce their working hours. This initiative seeks to promote the reconciliation of work and family life.

On 9 May 2008, a Ministerial Decision implementing and establishing the terms and conditions for the granting of the special maternity leave introduced by Law 3655/2008 was published in the Greek Official Gazette (FEK).

New leave rights and benefits

Under the new rules, working mothers who are employed by a company on a full- or part-time basis under temporary or open-ended contracts are entitled to an additional six-month period of special maternity protection leave, after the expiry of their confinement leave and the reduced working hours leave laid down in article 9 of the National General Collective Agreement of 2004-2005 (GR0311101S, GR0409102F).

If a mother does not use the reduced working hours leave immediately after confinement leave, she is entitled to receive the new maternity protection leave upon expiry of her confinement leave, and then use the reduced working hours leave, in accordance with article 9 of the 1993 National General Collective Agreement (GR0311101S).

To qualify for the new leave, a mother must be employed under a valid employment contract on the starting date of the maternity leave. She must also be insured with the Social Security Institute (IKA) and eligible for a maternity allowance from IKA.

The new leave is granted to working mothers upon request to their employer, which must send a written notification one month before the starting date of the employee’s leave. The time off from work during the special maternity protection leave is calculated as working time for the purposes of establishing annual paid leave, dismissal allowances and other employment law rights.

The Greek Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) pays special benefits, as well as equivalent holiday bonuses and leave allowances, to the women concerned for the whole duration of the special maternity protection leave, if they have a valid employment contract and have received a maternity allowance from IKA.The monthly benefit is equal to the minimum wages as established by the National General Collective Agreement.

The new leave is not available to working mothers who are employed under private-law employment contracts in the public sector, in legal entities governed by public law or local administrative units. Women who already receive additional leave of equal duration under the terms of their employer’s internal company regulations or a sectoral collective agreement are also excluded from the new entitlement.

Commentary

The introduction of the extended maternity protection leave is seen by commentators as a positive step towards achieving better reconciliation between family and working life. However, some critics argue that the administrative requirements for entitlement to the leave, in addition to the relatively low benefits, may dissuade mothers from using the leave. It should also be noted that the employer associations have not accepted an extension of dismissal protection for mothers for more than one year after the birth, or for the duration of the new leave. Consequently, employers are entitled to dismiss a working mother from one year after birth. This too may dissuade some working mothers from taking the new leave.

Anda Stamati, INE/GSEE

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