'More pay needed' for maternity leaveThe UK has been accused of having some of the longest but lowest paid maternity leave benefits in Europe.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Daycare Trust, said this made the country stand out from its European counterparts.

Her comments come after the European Parliament passed draft legislation to extend maternity leave across Europe from 14 to 20 weeks, fully paid.

It also approved plans to ensure that paternity leave lasted for at least two weeks, with the new rules intended to apply to domestic and self-employed workers, in addition to those working for employers.

Ms Garnham said the trust would like to see mothers entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave at 90 per cent pay and fathers offered four weeks leave at 90 per cent pay.

"We also believe that all payments should be at the least the national minimum wage level," she added.

The spokesperson went on to note there was evidence that the benefits to society outweighed the initial cost of initiating such practices in countries which implemented child and family-friendly policies.