European Parliament proposes 20 weeks’ maternity pay

Paid maternity leave could increase to 20 weeks for women in the UK if radical new plans, agreed by the European Parliament’s women’s committee today, are passed through the European Parliament in three weeks’ time.

UK working mothers are at present permitted six weeks at 90% of average earnings followed by 33 weeks at £117.18, or 90% of average weekly earnings.

An additional change for the UK, should the plans go through, would be the protection from redundancy or dismissal for the first six months of their return from maternity leave.

Last month the EU proposed to increase paid maternity leave to 18 weeks for member states, a move which the UK government claimed would cripple employers struggling to cope in the recession.

Mary Honeyball, the UK’s representative on the European women’s committee, said: “This bill is urgently needed to level out the current imbalance in European women’s maternity entitlements. The UK currently has one of the lowest maternity entitlements in the EU, third only to Greece and Luxembourg.”

The maternity directive will be debated and then voted on in the next parliament session in Strasbourg on 5 and 6 May.

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