The UK Business Minister, Edward Davey, has made a trip to Brussels to urge European Union member states to reject a proposed extension of maternity rights that would entitle new mothers to 20 weeks full pay.

The Government is concerned that a move to 20 weeks of maternity leave at full pay, as proposed by the European Parliament, would impose “considerable and unacceptable additional costs” on many Member States at a time when economies across the EU can least afford it. Ministers also believe that the proposals put forward are “socially regressive”.

Currently in the UK, the standard rate of maternity pay is £124.88 per week. The key elements of the European Parliament’s proposal are to allow 20 weeks maternity leave and adoption leave in principle at full pay, as well as 2 weeks’ paternity leave at full pay.
In advance of the meeting, Mr Davey said:

“The proposals put forward by MEPs would be extremely costly to business and also to the public purse. They are also socially regressive – the greatest benefits would be obtained by those earning the most – and the rigid model being proposed would make it hard for countries to develop systems of shared parental leave which would offer better support to working parents.

“I will be lobbying against these costly and regressive proposals today and making our case to Member States – I know that many of them already share our concerns.

“We are absolutely committed to creating the best possible family-friendly environment in the UK, but the solutions on the table today are not the best way to help.”

It is estimated by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) that the proposals put forward by the European Parliament would cost the UK more than £2bn per year.