8 March 2021

Reform maternity leave

Employees who became incapacitated to work in the weeks leading up to becoming a mother before giving birth, lost part of their postnatal leave and were doubly penalised for an accident or illness. The Statute of June 12th 2020, that came retroactively into force one year ago on March 1st 2020, changed the system.

Initially, prenatal leave could only be carried forward, in proportion to the time that the employee had continued to work after the sixth week preceding the actual date of delivery.

Only the days during which the employee had actually worked throughout said period could be carried over to the postnatal leave. Specific days of inactivity listed, assimilated to normal working days, granted also extra maternity leave after giving birth. Until recently, furlough because of force majeure or because of economic reasons were not assimilated to working days and therefore did not grant extra maternity leave days after giving birth.

Initially, the draft bill to equate the aforementioned periods of furlough with a period of employment, was limited in time to cover only unemployment during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic i.e. between March 1st 2020 and June 30th 2020. Because summer did not stop the health crisis, a political momentum moved to make the assimilation valid after June 30th 2020 and extend it to all employees that are incapacitated because of illness and accident.

The Statute of June 12th 2020 now opens up the scheme to all pregnant employees who lose their six weeks of prenatal rest due to illness or accident.

The Statute of June 12th 2020 does therefore not only assimilate force majeure or economic furlough but also women who become incapacitated to work before giving birth, whether or not pregnancy-related. Women who are preventively removed from the workplace were also added to this assimilated to working days after another amendment to the draft bill was adopted. Also women registered for unemployed in the six weeks leading up to giving birth will be entitled to 14 weeks’ maternity leave.

During the period of maternity leave, the employer can replace the absent employee. There is a specific protection against dismissal that the employer must take into account if he wishes to proceed to a dismissal during the protection period. Specific rules relating to health and safety also apply.

Male employees can, under certain conditions, take paternity leave. This leave amounted to 10 days, to be chosen by the employee within four months from the day of delivery. However, by Statute of 20 December 2020, its duration was increased to 15 days for each child born after January 1st 2021. The duration will by the same act of Parliament be augmented to 20 days if the child’s birth intervenes in 2023 or thereafter. The employer will have to pay the salary for the first 3 days of leave. Also here a protection against dismissal of the parental leaver kicks in.

If you have any question with regard to this topic, do not hesitate to contact us.

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