Cap on Lithuanian maternity leave benefits ‘unconstitutional’

The court said that benefits paid to women 70 days before giving birth and 56 (or 70) days afterwards must be equal to their salary before the leave and cannot be capped at €1,400, as is currently the case.

Maternity leave benefits are handled by the state-run Social Insurance Fund (Sodra) which will have to implement the ruling. The Constitutional Court said its ruling would come into effect in January 2017 in order to leave time to come up with the additional funds needed for its implementation.

Mindaugas Sinkevičius, the head of Sodra, told BNS that changing the law would not be difficult, but coming up with the money would prove a bigger challenge.

Olga Važnevičienė, a Sodra spokeswoman, later said that lifting the cap would require additionally €4.6 million a year, according to estimates.

In the ruling, the Constitutional Court argues that the state has an obligation to create an environment supportive of family and motherhood. Paid maternity leave “is a specific measure for the protection of motherhood and childhood, aimed at protecting the special condition and health of working pregnant women and new mothers and also for ensuring that special bond forms between the mother and the baby during the first weeks of its life”.

The Constitutional Court stated that the Seimas, parliament, must set legal regulation to ensure that maternity leave pay is linked to a working women’s salary before maternity leave. The court also noted that the Seimas is free to choose the sources of funding maternity leave before and after birth. They might include the state budget, the Sodra or any other financial model.

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