Free Britain

EU plans to triple maternity pay – landing taxpayer with huge bill

Source: Daily Mail

Women will be entitled to full pay for the first 18 weeks of maternity leave under radical plans being drafted in Brussels.

This more than triples the amount currently received by new mothers in Britain but would saddle businesses and the taxpayer with a massive bill.

Ministers face an uphill battle to block the controversial proposals, which will be unveiled next month and enjoy the support of most other EU countries.

Brussels sets minimum levels of maternity leave and pay, while countries may apply their own rules beyond these provisions.

European Commissioner Vladimir Spidla is drawing up a directive to increase leave from 14 to 18 weeks and upgrade income for that time from sick pay levels to full salary.

Britain would be unaffected by the extra time off as current UK rules give women the right to a year’s leave.

However, the change on pay would be hugely significant.

At the moment, new mothers receive 90 per cent of their average pay for six weeks, followed by 33 weeks at a flat rate £117.18 a week, known as statutory maternity pay (SMP).

The Government, which wants to extend SMP to 52 weeks in 2010, believes the deal is already generous and is worried about the EU proposals, while business leaders are deeply concerned.

Under current rules, firms can reclaim part  –  and in some cases all  –  SMP costs from the Treasury, but it is unclear whether they would get the same deal if the new EU system is enforced.

There are also fears that the improved deal for mothers would end up harming women’ s career prospects.

‘This is an ill-judged proposal that could have a negative impact on women,’ said Tory business spokesman Alan Duncan.

‘The danger is that it will make companies more reluctant to employ women.’

A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses added: ‘Small businesses would find this very difficult. Not only would they have to pay the employee, they also have to pay for a replacement.’


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