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Increasing maternity pay – a double edged sword?

17 September 2010

EU plans to impose on Member States a requirement for fully paid maternity leave for 20 weeks have been thrown into controversy by a report on impact assessment produced at the request of the European Parliament this week.
The current regulations in the UK allow for first six weeks of maternity leave on 90% pay, followed by 33 weeks on Statutory Maternity Pay. The British Chambers of Commerce calculate that the increase will cost UK businesses £2.5 billion per annum.

The report itself warns against viewing the proposals in purely financial terms. However, early indications from small employers indicate that, contrary to the view of this report, the financial burden imposed by the increase in fully paid maternity leave may discourage recruitment of women of child bearing age. Could this proposal bring with it an increase in cases of direct discrimination?

MEPs will vote on the Pregnancy Workers Directive in October.

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