(CN) - A Spanish law that allows mothers to take time off work for breastfeeding should also apply to fathers, Europe's high court said.
The Court of Justice ruled that the Spanish legislation violates the principle of equal treatment based on gender.
Under Spanish law, female employees receive up to nine months in which they are allowed to take off one hour every day - in two half-hour intervals - or leave work half an hour early, in order to breastfeed their newborns. The law only applies to the father if the mother of his child is also employed.
Roca Alvarez, who is self-employed, brought a case against her husband's employer, Sesa Start España, when it refused to grant him the breastfeeding leave.
The law, first instituted in 1900, was established to reconcile professional life with family life when a new baby arrives. But due to historical developments, its application is no longer tied to the biological process of breastfeeding, a Spanish court explained.
The law doesn't address a woman's historical inequality in the workplace, the EU court clarified, nor does it protect the mother's physical condition. Since the rule doesn't apply equally to men and women, it has in fact the effect of perpetuating traditional gender roles where the man provides for the family financially, and the woman is the primary caregiver, the court said.
This constitutes an unjustified difference in treatment based on gender, the Court of Justice concluded.
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