Business groups against plans to extend maternity leave

Business groups have labelled the European Parliament’s plans to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay “ludicrous and unwelcome”, as MEPs vote on the proposals.

Last month, Personnel Today reported that an impact assessment of the European Parliament’s plans found they could cost the UK £2.5 billion per year.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “The UK is already very generous and we offer longer leave than most other countries. The problem we have is with the suggestions of a minimum length of maternity leave. Extending the minimum to 18 or 20 weeks is ludicrous and unwelcome.”

The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) and the Federation of Small Businesses have called on MEPs to vote against the proposals, over concerns that employers may have to share the cost of lengthened maternity leave.

Kieran O’Keefe, head of European affairs at the BCC, added: “MEPs must think carefully about the implications of this Directive for already overburdened companies and national social security systems.

“The figures provided in the Parliament’s own impact assessment show that these proposals are completely unaffordable, particularly at a time when governments across the EU are dealing with budget deficits and the aftermath of recession.”

Currently, UK employers are required to pay pregnant women six weeks’ salary at 90% of their average earnings, followed by 33 weeks of statutory maternity pay at £125 per week.

The European Parliament will vote on the proposals on this week. Following the vote, proposed reforms will be considered by member-state governments at a future meeting of the European Council.

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