Written by Richard Rowell
Published on October 24, 2010

This week the European Parliament has given its backing to proposals that could see an increase in the maternity leave for employees extended to 20 weeks at full pay.

Euro MPs supported the new proposal during its first reading in the European Parliament. However, the change can only become law if the EU governments agree to it.

The UK has stated that it is against the plan. At present, maternity leave for mothers is up to 1 year off work. Of this year the first six weeks is paid at 90%. The next 33 weeks is paid at SMP rates of £124.88 a week and the remainder is unpaid.

As a small business owner I hope that the common sense approached quoted by the British Chamber of Commerce prevails. In commenting on the proposals David Frost, Director General of the BCC said:

"The vote in the European Parliament will leave business dismayed. That the European Parliament has gone to the trouble and expense of conducting an impact assessment only to ignore the findings will seem incredible to our members."

"This directive should be about setting minimum health and safety standards for pregnant workers, not adding new payroll costs for overburdened companies and national social security systems."

"The idea that employers or our public finances can bear an additional £2.5 billion per year is deeply out of touch with reality. UK businesses will be hoping that member states can now curb the worst excesses of these proposals."