Increase to 12-month maternity leave could hit business costs

Working mothers taking advantage of their full 12-months’ maternity leave could be about to become more expensive for employers.

The UK government is expected to introduce legislation on 1 October giving women the same rights in the additional second six months of maternity leave as in the first six months. This would mean employers would have to pay benefits such as holiday pay, company car allowances and medical insurance for twice as long.

The legislation stems from a High Court decision earlier this year in a case brought against the UK government by the Equal Opportunities Commission. The judge told the government to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to properly implement the European Equal Treatment Directive and ensure women are not discriminated against at any period of their maternity leave.

The government promised in March to change sex discrimination law “as soon as is reasonably practicable”.

Ruth Bonino, employment lawyer at law firm Reed Smith, told Personnel Today she understood from the government that the law would be amended on 1 October. “It is likely to mean employees choosing an additional six months of maternity leave will have the same contractual benefit rights as they did in the first six months,” she said.

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