Planned maternity leave increase criticised

Business group says EU plan for 20 weeks of fully paid maternity leave is “unaffordable”

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Business groups have criticised plans to introduce new EU laws to increase maternity leave to 20 weeks at full pay. The European Parliament will vote on the plans next month but groups like the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) have said the increase is unaffordable, particularly following the recession.

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“The parliament’s proposals are completely unaffordable as governments across the EU seek to deal with budget deficits and the aftermath of recession, said Kieran O’Keeffe from the BCC.

You are currently entitled to take a year off when you have a baby but only the first six weeks is paid at 90% of your normal salary. After this, for the following 33 weeks you can receive around £124 a week on Statutory Maternity Pay. For the rest of the year you’ll be unpaid.

In making UK policy more family-friendly, business groups fear women could be discriminated against. Employers may not want to risk employing women of childbearing age if they feel they can’t afford to pay for potential maternity leave. This is despite the fact that employers would be reimbursed by the government.

“Those babies form the population of the future, so we shouldn’t be letting a temporary financial crisis drive our policy on supporting new mothers,” said Belinda Phipps, from the National Childbirth Trust.

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Pregnant? Know your maternity rights.

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