Small Businesses Applaud EU Rejection of Statutory Maternity Pay Extension
Small businesses have welcomed a decision by EU ministers to block plans to extend statutory maternity pay to a minimum of 20 weeks on full pay in member states.
Draft legislation was passed by a committee of the European Parliament in September 2010 proposing that employers offer female employees 20 weeks of maternity leave on full pay. However, EU member states have now rejected the proposal due to the costs involved for employers.
Further changes to maternity pay are due to be considered next year, including the possibility of introducing the European Commission‘s original proposal of 18 weeks’ minimum maternity leave, with a non-compulsory recommendation that it be on full pay.
Currently, women in the UK are entitled to take a year’s 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. At the moment, most small-business owners can claim these costs back.
BP Collins solicitor, Kathryn Fielder, said that the proposed maternity leave extension would have been damaging for small firms.
“Most small firms do not offer women employees anything above the minimum requirement, so the extension would make a big difference and might even bring some of them under. Also, having to hold positions open for longer for more women could have been a burden, especially at a time when a lot of small firms are going to the wall.“
“A lot of employers resent even paying the amount they have to pay currently so they will definitely be pleased that the change has been rejected.“
Carol Smith, policy adviser at Croner HR, agreed that the outcome was good news for small businesses.
“If the extension had come in, it’s unlikely that employers would have been able to claim back full pay for that period of time and so they would have lost out. We have quite a generous maternity package in the UK compared to some other European countries already.“
Tina Sommers, the Federation of Small Businesses‘s (FSB) EU and international affairs chairman, said:
"It’s vital to have adequate, flexible maternity and paternity leave, but it should be for elected governments to decide how much their economy can afford to give on leave and pay, and how this should be delivered.“