Britain lags well behind other European countries in maternity pay and
accommodating new mothers at work, Byers told the conference.
Referring to research carried out by the DTI, he said the average 8.6 weeks
full maternity pay that British women receive is well below the EU average.
Britain has a higher proportion of non-working mothers than other European
countries and British women are less likely than their European counterparts to
go back to work after having a baby.
Byers said British firms are not good about introducing policies to help
women return to work.
"There have been some improvements in recent years with more firms
supporting flexible working arrangements, but we still lag behind," he
The reasons for the differences are being analysed and will feed into his
review of maternity pay and parental leave.
Issues to be looked at in detail are the impact of statutory maternity pay
and leave, additional entitlements offered by employers, take up of parental
and paternity leave, barriers to mothers returning to work and flexible work
He added that the advantages to employers of good maternity and paternity
policies in terms of retaining good staff and improving loyalty and
productivity are well documented.