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Extended maternity leave set for vote on Thursday

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A proposal extending maternity leave to 22 weeks for the first child is set for a vote at the House plenum on Thursday.

During discussions at the House labour committee on Tuesday, Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou said the government’s central policy is to support working parents, stressing that the submission of the bill to extend maternity leave by one month is a key provision of the governance programme.

Panayiotou explained that around 5,000 mothers annually will benefit from the extension and that it will have immediate effect, even for mothers already on maternity leave.

An actuarial study on the impact of the allowance on the Social Insurance Fund has been completed and “did not raise concerns”.

With the new law proposal the duration of maternity leave for the first child will increase from 18 to 22 weeks for birth or through a surrogate, and from 16 to 20 weeks for the adoption of the first child.

Additionally, there is an increase from six to eight weeks in the case of premature birth.

The total cost, according to Panayiotou, will range between €4.1 million and €4.4 million annually.

Although parties and organisations have praised the new legislation, the Office of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights said the bills still lack a child-centred approach and do not comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as they create distinctions between first and subsequent children and discriminate between ways of becoming a parent.

Committee chair and Akel MP Andreas Kakkaliaris said that while the extension is an improvement, the universal demand for an extension to 26 weeks for the first child remains unmet.

Disy MP Savia Orphanidou called for a study on the impact of extending leave to 26 weeks on the Social Insurance Fund to be prepared to address the issue and highlighted the need to strengthen childcare facilities, flexible forms of work and the creation of breastfeeding spaces.

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