UK government set to fight EU maternity leave proposals

BUSINESS leaders and the government yesterday vowed to fight controversial draft EU proposals to extend maternity leave to a mandatory 20 weeks at full pay.

Ministers said the UK would “work hard to oppose the plans”, which have been approved by MEPs but not yet by EU governments. Germany and France are also opposed to the plans.

A spokesman for the Department for Business said government estimates put the potential cost of the measure at over £2bn per year – twice the current spend on maternity leave – “at a time when economies across the EU can least afford an increase”.

Minimum maternity leave in the EU is currently set at 14 weeks.

Business leaders also warned that the state may force employers to pick up some or all of the tab for the rise, hitting small firms which are already struggling in the wake of the crisis.

The Institute of Directors said: “Some large businesses won’t mind the change because they are already gold-plating statutory maternity pay by making their own additional payments. But the effect on small firms, almost none of which can afford to supplement statutory maternity pay, would be very severe.”

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