Government Seeks to Block Maternity Leave Extension

The UK Government has opposed a European Parliament ruling to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay in EU member states.

Currently, women in the UK are entitled to take a year off work for maternity leave. Employers are only required to pay six weeks’ salary at 90% of their average earnings, and then the employee can receive 33 weeks of statutory maternity pay, with the remaining weeks unpaid. As it stands at the moment, small business owners can claim these costs back.

MEPs voted in favour of the European Parliament proposals, which will oblige employers to offer female employees 20 weeks of maternity leave on full pay.

A report containing its recommendations has now been passed to the European Council — made up of the Governments of the member states — to be amended or adopted.

A European Parliament impact assessment showed that the maternity extension would cost the UK alone an extra £3 billion.

“We were very disappointed by the outcome of the vote,”

said a spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

“But it’s not the end of the process. The UK government will be working very hard to oppose this law being implemented. We think it would present additional costs to the EU economy and to the UK Exchequer at a time we could do without it.”

“However, the law now needs to be approved by the European Council so it may not end up as UK law. We will continue to oppose it and lobby other member states to get agreement with them.”

British Chambers of Commerce policy adviser, Abigail Morris, said that if the law was introduced, the cost would be picked up by UK businesses.

“It might be by making them pay directly for the cost or it might be through taxation.”

However, funding for any extra allowances has not been decided by the EU.

“Many small firms already pay more than the statutory amount and for longer, but the European Parliament has taken that into account in their impact assessment and it will still be an extra £3 billion that the UK cannot afford. If it does pass into law, the UK Government will have another two to three years to implement it.”

For more information about the current regulations read our business advice article on maternity pay.

Government Seeks to Block Maternity Leave Extension

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