European Union ministers reject MEPs’ plan for 20-week paid maternity leave

THE European Union has rebuffed a bid by members of the European parliament to extend paid maternity leave.

The Council of Ministers – the EU organisation representing member states’ governments – voiced concern about the potential cost impact on employers of the proposals to extend leave on full pay to 20 weeks, which the European Parliament approved in October.

The European Commission has proposed to extend minimum maternity leave in the EU to 18 weeks from 14 weeks to improve work-life balance. No deal is expected before next year.

The UK, France and Germany opposed the 20-week plan on the grounds that it could result in billions more in business and healthcare costs.

The current holder of the revolving EU presidency, Belgium, said most member states were in favour of more talks about the Commission’s original draft directive for an extension to 18 weeks.

The council also expressed concern about including paternity leave in the directive, which it said was aimed at improving health and safety for pregnant women and workers who had recently given birth.

Women in the UK are currently entitled to 12 months’ maternity leave, with the first six weeks on 90 per cent pay followed by 33 weeks on just under £125 a week.