Mother's Day 2019 - What has the EU done for mothers?

To celebrate Mother's Day 2019, Best for Britain have compiled a list of things the EU has done for mothers living, working and bringing up families here in the UK.

Best for Britain's CEO Eloise Todd said:

"Brexit threatens the livelihoods and prospects of mothers and children across the United Kingdom.

"I don’t want to see the sweeping employment deregulation that Brexit could bring, which will inevitably hit women and children hardest. I don’t want to see a shrinking economy, worsening climate and isolationist world view become the future our children grow up in.

"We make the most progress when we work together with our European neighbours and partners. That’s why it's crucial that the people are given the final say on this momentous issue."


1. Maternity Rights

  • Before being a member of the EU, UK women could be dismissed because of pregnancy, as it was seen as the equivalent to illness. EU law prohibited that.
  • Thanks to the EU, UK employers MUST provide pregnant workers with at least 14 weeks paid maternity leave, of which 2 weeks must occur before birth.
  • The EU Pregnant Workers Directive was instrumental in ensuring the health and safety at work of pregnant women and new mothers. When it was implemented in 1993, for example, it led to a right to paid time off for antenatal appointments, which was extended to many pregnant agency workers by another EU directive in 2011. UK employers must now give pregnant employees the option of parental leave and provide for paid time off for antenatal appointments during working hours.
  • Employees are entitled to return to their job after maternity leave. And they can have extra time off for family reasons, accidents, or illness of children.
  • And last but by no means least, prevents dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy ensures pregnant and breastfeeding workers are not obliged to perform duties that would jeopardise their safety or health.

2. Shared Parental Leave

  • It was an EU law which gave men equally the same right as their partner to take parental leave. Men and women have equal rights of at least 18 weeks' parental leave for each child.

3. Cross-border family law

  • The pillar of free movement, enshrined in the EU's four freedoms, makes  it is easier than ever before to live, work or study in another EU country. In a world where people are increasingly mobile, there are more and more families and couples made up of people from different EU countries. Also, the number of couples including a person from outside the EU is increasing. There are currently around 16 million international couples in the EU.
  • Inevitably, when such families break up, family members often end up living in different countries. This can be a difficult situation, especially for parents and children.
  • Although family law remains the competence of EU countries, the EU can legislate on family law if there are cross-border implications.

4. It's complicated: divorce and family separation

  • Brexit could make divorce family separations more difficult. If we were to crash out of the EU without a deal, the UK will cease to be part of co-operation between EU family courts. Instead the UK will fall back on legal conventions drawn up in The Hague - but these are complicated and do not cover every area of family law.
  • The government has advised families with ongoing cases to seek legal advice if cases are not closed by our scheduled departure date. A government technical note says: “we cannot guarantee that EU courts will follow the same principle, nor that EU courts will accept or recognise any judgments stemming from these cases.”

5. Protection and safeguarding of children

  • The EU has enshrined the safety, rights and protection of children into EU law. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU guarantees the protection of the rights of the child by the EU institutions and by EU countries when they implement EU law.
  • In April 2017, the EU Parliament adopted a resolution on safeguarding the best interests of the child across the EU. It stressed that it is children who pay the price when EU member states fail to cooperate and protect children’s best interests in legal proceedings such as cross-border adoption decisions, once again notes the lack of a mechanism for automatic recognition of domestic adoption orders issued in other Member States; and calls on the Member States and the Commission to regulate on recognition of domestic adoption.

6. EU campaign for gender equality

  • The EU's strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019 outlines key priorities and activities set out to further reduce disparities between women and men in the EU. The document commits to supporting women's economic independence, reducing the gender pay gap, and further boosting economic growth with employment of mothers.

7. LGBT+ mothers

  • Being a member of the European Union has strengthened the UK’s commitment to progress on LGBT+ rights. Campaigners used EU laws and structures to decriminalise of gay sex in Northern Ireland. UK trade unionists also operationalised EU law to make it illegal to discriminate against gay people in the workplace.
  • The EU Court of Justice ruled that firing an employee for undertaking gender reassignment was sex discrimination. This has been instrumental for protecting trans rights at work.
  • Whilst not an institution of the EU, our current membership requires us to be part of the ECHR, but the current government wants to leave post-Brexit.

8. Equal Pay

  • EU law has driven the progression of employment rights for women and provided safeguards for UK employees that would not otherwise exist. Equality is enshrined under the Equal Pay Directive of 1975 and Equal Treatment Directive of 1976 ect under EU law. That means ff Equal Pay has direct e the principle can be relied upon directly by individuals in national court.

9. Petals in peril

  • The UK flower industry is set to wilt in the event of a no deal Brexit on 12th April, making that last minute dash to the petrol station for a bunch of flowers on Mother's Day more of a headache than usual.
  • The Dutch flower industry, which provides up to 80 per cent of the UK's supply, fears it would be faced with “catastrophic delays” at ports and an avalanche of red tape after Brexit, leading to price hikes and a shorter supply of bouquets.

1. Pregnant Workers Directive 1992/85/EEC ; In 2012, a Conservative MEP wanted to scrap pregnant worker and agency worker regulations calling them “barriers to employment” – he is now a Brexit minister (Lord Martin Callanan addressing the European Parliament in 2012).

2.The Parental Leave EU Regulation 2013;





7. The only express right in international law to non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (EU Charter, Article 21);