Bonum Certa Men Certa

Granting Loads of Monopolies in Europe (to Foreign Corporations of Epic Size and Far Too Much Power Inside Europe) is Vastly More Important Than Raising European Kids Properly?

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Jun 24, 2024,
updated Jun 24, 2024

EPO Parenthood leave

"Efficiency" first? Whose? Corporations or families? No wonder so many young families are hesitant to have any kids these days; that's particularly true in east Asia and also in north America, not just Europe

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO has circulated a new publication along with comments about "maternity leave, adoption leave, and special leave for the birth of a child". Colleagues have just been told that: "The [EPO] administration have recently called technical meetings of the D&I working group members to discuss their proposal of amendments to the service regulations regarding “parenthood” leave, currently regulated under maternity leave, adoption leave, and special leave for the birth of a child (effectively paternity leave). In the course of the meetings, the staff representation submitted comments."

Benoît Battistelli's daughters and António Campinos' son (who got drunk, crashed the car, and then asked "daddy" for diplomatic immunity) are a reminder that the latest EPO dictators have firsthand experience as parents. Do they project that onto staff of theirs?

Let's examine the 4-page publication:

Zentraler Personalausschuss
Central Staff Committee
Le Comité Central du Personnel

The Hague, 21.06.2024
sc24035cp

“Parenthood” leave – Drafting regulations from scratch

Maternity leave, adoption leave, and special leave for the birth of a child all to be replaced

The administration have recently called technical meetings of the D&I working group members to discuss their proposal of amendments to the service regulations regarding “parenthood” leave, currently regulated under maternity leave, adoption leave, and special leave for the birth of a child (effectively paternity leave).

First meeting – a broad overview of plans

The first meeting was on the 15th May, where the administration presented four slides broadly outlining their plans. These consisted of a move to a “child-centric approach”, whereby the current relevant separate regulations would be replaced by a unified system defining “parenthood leave”. This single regulation would cover all situations where a child is welcomed into a family, including birth, adoption, surrogacy, and legal guardianship.

The staff representatives were very happy to learn that colleagues undergoing surrogacy and legal guardianship would soon also be eligible for leave to bond with their child and care for them. This has been a long-standing request and was a welcome expansion of eligibility of leave providing a vital resource for staff members undergoing this process.

The administration explained that the terminology to be used for all parents would be the “primary caregiver” and “secondary caregiver”, with the former having 20+ weeks of leave and the latter having 2+ weeks of leave. Where one parent gives birth, this parent is defined as the primary caregiver and the other as the secondary caregiver. Where none of the parents give birth, the parents may choose who takes which role. They explained that sharing of the leave for the birthing families had been considered and was not possible since the birthing women are protected by a minimum amount of leave by the ILO and only a couple of weeks of leave could possibly have been shared, which was not considered worthwhile.

During the meeting, the staff representatives stated that the new “child-centric” approach to re- defining maternity leave seemed to be minimising, to the point of completely neglecting, the role of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding on a mother. The World Health Organisation (WHO) supports this stance, in that it defines maternity leave as the “mother's right to a period of rest in relation to childbirth is a crucial means of safeguarding health and nutrition of the mother and her child” (emphasis added).

Follow-up to the first meeting – what else should be considered

After the meeting, staff representation sent a document comprising five points. The first point was related to the concerns with moving to a unified approach which necessitates the abolition of the maternity leave article. The staff representation stated their opinion that a more suitable approach to including families who welcome children through surrogacy or legal guardianship would be to maintain the maternity leave article as is and expand and rename the adoption leave article.


The other four points related to provisions that staff representation brought forward and which should also be considered at the time of amending these particular service regulations, including daily time- off for breastfeeding. The latter is a required provision in all EU member states and is also regulated in the Maternity Protection Convention of the ILO, yet still missing and well overdue to be included into our regulations.

Meeting of the administration with the networks

On the 12th of June, the administration also met with representatives of the 3 networks at the Office, the Special Needs Network, the Rainbow Group, and the Women Network, to get their feedback on the proposed amendments.

Second meeting – discussing the regulation amendments

Prior to the second meeting on the 13th June, the staff representation was provided with documentation defining the proposed amendments to the relevant service regulations that was to be discussed. The amendments to Article 61 – Maternity leave, Article 61a – Adoption leave, and Circular 22, Rules 11 and 12, comprise replacing them with completely new ones, Article 61 – Parenthood leave, and a new Rule 11. In examiner terms, this is analogous to deleting all claims and drafting brand new ones, without providing indication of basis. This made it quite a challenge to carefully analyse the differences in all of the provisions set out in these articles and identify where changes to the current provisions had been introduced, intentionally or otherwise.

Some intended and some unintended changes

We identified some important changes when comparing the relevant parts of the current regulations to the proposed ones.

Length of leave for birthing parents

The proposed regulations introduced an inconsistency in the length of leave provided when a child is born, and removed the possibility of deferring the leave beyond six weeks prior to the due date for pregnant women. In addition, the amount of leave regulated in examples where the child is born overdue or before the due date amounted to fewer weeks of leave than is currently offered. Thankfully, the administration acknowledged this was a mistake and assured us that there was no intention at all to reduce the amount of leave provided for employees who give birth in any situation. Staff representation explained that the wording in current Rule 11(a)(i) is very clear, unambiguous, and leaves no doubt as to the amount of leave available and should therefore be reinstated. In addition, a stipulation of non-interruption of the leave is introduced in to proposed regulations where it was previously absent. However, the ILO recommendation states that “to the extent possible, measures should be taken to ensure that the woman is entitled to choose freely the time at which she takes any non-compulsory portion of her maternity leave, before or after childbirth”. As such, the consistency of these regulations should be considered. The potential for taking the leave in portions to extend the total duration is of great value to new parents.

Reduction of benefits for adopting families

Under the current regulations, parents who adopt a child may share the 20+ weeks of adoption leave if they are both employees of the Office. This provision has been abolished in the proposed regulations.

The administration states that in order to be inclusive, it was necessary to remove this provision since it is not possible for the birthing families due to ILO regulations protecting women who give


birth. The staff representation do not agree with this line of argumentation, since the principle of equal treatment requires that comparable situations must not be treated differently and that different situations must not be treated in the same way. It is obtuse to stipulate that same-sex or non-birthing couples must be required to define who will take the role of the pregnant, birthing, and breastfeeding parent with at least 20 weeks of leave, and the other take only 2 weeks leave, especially when justified as being necessary for “inclusivity”. It is further noted that this provision is completely cost neutral, leads to unequal treatment as it is effectively possible to share the leave for non-birthing families with only one parent as an employee, and is a very important point for the effected groups of staff.

In addition, under the current regulations, where the adoption process requires a stay abroad of one or both parents additional leave may be granted for the purpose. This is also abolished in the proposed regulations. Again, we are to assume that this had to be removed in order to achieve “inclusivity” with the birthing families who have no reason to require this additional leave.

Advance notice for leave

Under the current regulations, there is no definition of a notice required for the start date of the maternity leave. In the proposed regulations, the notice period is brought into line with that for adoption leave, namely one month for primary caregivers, with secondary caregivers required to give three days’ notice for the start date of the leave. Staff representation pointed out that for families who are expecting the birth of their child, giving concrete start dates with one month or three days’ notice is not practical since the actual date of birth is unknown.

We explained how this could result in fathers accidentally using all of their leave before the baby even arrives in case of overdue births, or either parent could accidentally not observe the required notice in case of early births. In addition, we reminded the administration of cases of “flash” adoption, where minimal notice was provided before placing a child with their adoptive parents. We also asked what the consequences would be when the parents were not able to observe the required notice period, and if the leave request could be rejected. The answer from the administration was that regulations cannot cover all cases, and there would be (non-legally binding) FAQs available on the intranet, and HR would interpret the regulations in a pragmatic way. We learned that the notice period of one month has been waived by the administration in the past in case of adoptions. However, we are of the opinion that if a regulation cannot reasonably be expected to be met, then it should either be removed or amended appropriately, especially when it will inevitably be a source of stress for new parents. A way to overcome this issue, while providing the Office with notification of an upcoming absence, would be to require that the staff member “inform” the Office of an upcoming child birth or welcoming of a child without the requirement to indicate the precise start date of the leave.

Documentation required for birthing families

We noted that it is currently completely clear exactly which documentation is required for maternity leave, that being a medical certificate to confirm the pregnancy and a birth certificate. Again, to align with the non-birthing families, the administration have opted to apply a lengthy and somewhat convoluted wording, similar to that currently applicable for adoptive parents, to all parents. This is understandable for the non-birthing families – the documentation that can be used as evidence that a child is now the legal responsibility of the parents, and the timeline of availability of that documentation, varies from case to case. However, this “inclusive” alignment approach has removed the certainty that currently exists for the vast majority of employees using this regulation, the birthing families. The administration proposed to include more specific information in FAQs posted on the intranet, but this is not considered an appropriate solution since this introduces extra burden on the staff member, and it was so simply defined previously directly in the regulations. In addition, and disappointingly, the administration decided to introduce a threat that if the non-specified documentation is not provided, or is not deemed the appropriate documentation, the leave will be considered an unauthorised absence.


Pay during leave

The proposed regulations remove reference to the leave being “paid” in the article, and further replace the wording of the circular referring to “full pay” with a retention of rights to remuneration. The staff representation inquired as to the reasons for these omissions and changes, to which the administration replied there was no intention to make changes on this front, and that the word “paid” could be reintroduced into the article.

On reflection, there may indeed be a difference in the wording of the article for part-time workers. “Full-pay” can imply the eligibility to full-time pay, whereas retention of rights to remuneration more clearly defines a continuation of pay on current part-time salary. Parents due to take leave when welcoming a child should bear this in mind, particularly pregnant staff members, who may be considering moving to part-time during pregnancy, as it would have an impact on the pay during the 20+ weeks of leave.

Current state of play

Alongside the presentation given by staff representation in the hour long second meeting, we have also provided detailed input to the administration on their proposed regulation amendments in writing. Despite our welcome input of identifying inconsistencies in the proposal, the administration would not commit to a further meeting, but we hope that an invitation will come, this time of a sufficient duration to discuss all the issues fully.

The regulations are due to be finalised before the GCC at the beginning of October and are due to be presented to the BFC at the end of October. The latter is also an important point to consider – abolishing the maternity leave article and departing from the model of leave for childbirth applied in all member states, ILO regulations, and EU directives may be considered controversial. Staff representation are fully supportive of the concept of expansion of leave for additional families and want to avoid that the manner in which it has been included causes issues with approval.

Conclusions

We are of the opinion that attempting to align the regulations for birthing families and non-birthing families has introduced a number of significant issues for both groups, and it is likely that there are more negative consequences that have not yet been identified.

In addition, the distorted use of the concept of inclusivity to remove provisions for shared leave for non-birthing families, apply regulations requiring impossible to achieve certainty in terms of birth date, and requesting ill-defined documentation in order to obtain the leave is far from the spirit of diversity and inclusion. Inclusivity is not achieved by applying the same rules to everyone, as asserted by the administration, but by acknowledging differences and the diversity of our staff with an aim to achieve equity.

So again, we appeal to the administration to start from the wording that has been serving the majority of staff well for decades and finds basis in many other international organisations, maintain all of the provisions that are already regulated, and make the minor amendments required to expand the provisions for families undergoing surrogacy and legal guardianship.

The Central Staff Committee

Notice how in the one paragraph before last (above) "diversity" and "inclusivity" are described as means by which families get shafted, not accommodated for. This is why many people get all cynical about "DEI", D&I" or all those other buzzwords, acronyms, and catchphrase (embraced and spread mostly by megacorporations and billionaires' pseudo-NGOs). They don't quite mean what they stand for, at least not in practice. The EPO can do all the pinkwashing it wants (at great expense) and staff representatives will joke about how "inclusivity" at the EPO means bringing in (or promoting) relatives, friends, spouses etc.

The EPO is a corrupt sham and the EU must pay attention because it is fast becoming a liability to its own reputation.

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