Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been warned that they could suffer most if plans to alter provisions for paid maternity leave are approved by the European parliament. director Emyr Williams offered his support to employment relations minister Ed Davey for his promise to campaign against the amended pregnant workers directive and expressed concern over the potential impact on smaller firms.

“The UK is right to lobby against a move to 20 weeks of maternity leave at full pay,” he said. “[The directive] would hit small firms particularly hard. Many just couldn’t afford to pay it.”

Mr Williams added that the new legislation may have an inadvertent negative effect on the job prospects of female candidates, as some SMEs could seek to avoid the expense of 20-week leave by hiring men.

Earlier in the week, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber welcomed the EU proposals, claiming they will benefit parents who are least well off.

Posted by Hayley Edwards