Full pay maternity leave for 20 weeks – coming soon?

Draft legislation passed, but some parties are concerned about the cost of extra maternity payments

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A draft legislation to extend fully paid maternity leave to 20 weeks across Europe has been passed by a committee of the European Parliament. This is up from the current European rules of 14 weeks fully paid leave.

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Right now in the UK you’re entitled to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave. While some companies have their own maternity pay scheme, Statutory Maternity Pay (if you qualify) sees you receive 90% of your pay for the first six weeks, and the next 33 weeks at either the standard SMP rate of £123.06 or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings – whichever is the lowest. The remaining time isn’t paid.

There are some concerns that, if the legislation is passed, women of childbearing age could face discrimination from employers. Others, such as business groups, are worried about the extra cost to companies. The cost to UK businesses has been estimated by the Institute of Directors to be somewhere between £1.5billion and £2billion.

Lord Young, the UK’s Employment Relations Minister, said, “We already have a generous system which is better than many European Union countries and works well, balancing the needs of businesses and workers.”

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The 20-week plan will go before the European Parliament early next month.

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