On 4 August 2010, Directive 2010/41/EU of 7 July 2010 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity entered into force. It improves the protection of female self-employed workers and the assisting spouses or life partners of self-employed workers, particularly also during maternity. They are granted a maternity allowance and leave of at least 14 weeks, should they choose to take it. At EU level, this is the first time a maternity allowance has been granted to self-employed workers.
The new Directive notes that although the original Council Directive 86/613/EEC was intended to provide equal treatment for men and women working “in a self-employed capacity”, it has “not been very effective” in fulfilling this objective.
Article 5 of the Directive further provides that Member States may take “Positive action” to address gender inequality, for example by “promoting entrepreneurship initiatives among women”, at a time when one in three entrepreneurs is a woman.
The Directive will no doubt be welcomed by the assisting spouses and life partners of the self-employed, particularly where their self-employed partner is the couple’s sole source of income. One notable caveat of the Directive is that the validity of the life partner relationship must be recognised under national law in order to fall under the scope of the Directive. EU member states now have to implement the Directive into their national laws within two years.