8th December 2009
Once again a proposed EU-wide increase in maternity leave will damage small businesses and young women's employment prospects.
EU proposals to increase maternity leave to a minimum of 18 weeks - shelved before the European elections - have been revived. The European Commission originally proposed that maternity leave be extended to 18 weeks on full pay but the Women's Committee vote proposed extending this to 20 weeks.
The first six weeks would be on compulsory full pay and the rest of the leave would be at 85% of salary.
At present in the UK, an employee can take 52 weeks of leave. During the first six weeks the employer must pay 90 per cent of the average earnings, then a further 33 weeks are paid at Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) of £123.
The directive would also introduce a compulsory period of two weeks of paternity leave.
Mr Ashley Fox said:
"Stricter EU rules on maternity leave will make it harder for women of child bearing age to get work, particularly in small businesses. Small business owners with only a handful of staff are struggling to meet payroll costs already, without the EU forcing them to pay a member of staff for five months without a day's work.”
"Once again we are seeing how well-intentioned EU employment law is actually exacerbating our unemployment crisis."
"In the present economic climate surely we should be making it easier for people to gain employment, not placing obstacles in their way."