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Parliament seeks equal treatment for self-employed

Euro-MPs want to promote female entrepreneurship and are proposing new rules to bridge the gender gap for self-employed workers and their partners and to ensure everyone has social protection.

MEPs want EU Member States to provide social protection, including at least 14 weeks maternity allowance, in line with national law. They debate the proposals Monday and vote on them Tuesday.

At the moment there are important differences in access to social protection between employed and self-employed workers and their partners. According to the EU's statistics agency Eurosat, 10.5% of workers were self-employed in 2007.

The aim of the proposals is to ensure equal treatment for self-employed men and women and their spouses or long-term partners, specifically by improving social protection, maternity benefits and status.

Astrid Lulling, who is steering the proposals through the EP said, "like salaried workers, independents must have social protection and contribute to their pensions. It is even more important that their partners are protected, especially in the case of divorce. They mustn't have to rely on rights linked to their husband's insurance."

The Women's Committee wants all EU countries to offer social protection to self-employed workers and their partners. Each country could decide if self-employed workers must sign up for spousal protection or can opt out.

Maternity benefits for independents

The new rules would also grant maternity protection to self-employed women and the wives or life partners of self-employed men. "Today there isn't maternity protection in all member states for self-employed women and the partners of self-employed men," Ms Lulling said. "We want to create the right, obligatory or voluntary, for 14 weeks paid maternity leave."

General rules on maternity leave are currently being discussed under a separate proposal and the committee wants any decisions about the length of maternity leave to be made applicable to self-employed workers too. Rules on the health and safety of pregnant workers - which includes provisions on maternity and paternity leave, are scheduled to be voted on in July.

Procedure file on self-employed workers

Procedure file on maternity leave

Strasbourg plenary session - 17-20 May 2010 - Briefing


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