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Maternity Leave – a pregnant pause?
Recently, the European Parliament agreed proposals to amend the Pregnant Workers Directive, including an increase in the minimum period of maternity leave across the EU to 20 weeks on full pay. However, the 20 week proposal has since been rejected by the European Council and instead they are now looking at a plan to pay new mothers full pay for 18 weeks instead.

Currently the UK gives new mothers up to a full year off, six weeks of it paid at 90% of the mother's average pay, followed by 33 weeks on £124.88 per week (or 90% of average pay if lower) as Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).

If this proposal is implemented, the key issue for the UK will be to answer the question, “who is going to pay for the increase?” The Government will have to decide whether the current rules allowing employers to recover a large part of SMP will apply to any increased maternity pay and, if not, how the cost should be split between taxpayer and employer.

However, the proposals are a long way from becoming law and they are subject to negotiation with all member states and co-decision with the council of EU ministers. The UK and German governments are reported to be resisting them and a range of employers' groups will lobby strenuously in their support. It does seem likely that, by the time UK employers need to apply any new rights the proposals will have been watered down considerably

The original proposals were:
* The six weeks maternity pay at 90% of average pay and 33 weeks at the flat rate of £124.88 a week SMP in the UK would increase to 20 weeks' full pay.
* The two weeks of compulsory leave after the birth in the UK would increase to six weeks.
* A new ‘ban’ on the dismissal of pregnant workers until six months after the end of their maternity leave.
* The two weeks of paternity leave paid at the rate of SPP would be increased by up to a further 26 weeks for fathers of children due on or after 3 April 2011 with full pay for the first two weeks.
* Obligations to perform night work or overtime would be removed for: all pregnant workers during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy; pregnant workers with health problems during the remainder of the pregnancy; and breastfeeding mothers during the entire period of breastfeeding.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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