EU Commissioner plans to increase maternity pay and leave
A draft amendment to the Pregnant Workers’ Directive which will entitle women to receive maternity pay equivalent to their normal salary for 18 weeks and increase compulsory maternity leave to six weeks has been drawn up in readiness for consideration by EU Commissioners this month.
Currently in the UK, women are entitled to be paid statutory maternity pay (SMP) for a period of 39 weeks. SMP is paid at two different rates: (i) 90% of their normal weekly earnings for the first six weeks; (ii) then 33 weeks at the ‘lower rate’ which is either 90% of their normal weekly earnings or £117.18 (as from 6 April 2008), whichever is the lower.
The draft proposal by Vladimir Spidla, the EU Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, would increase maternity leave under the Pregnant Workers’ Directive from 14 to 18 weeks and give women the right to receive their normal salary in full for the entire duration of that leave period. The enhanced rate of SMP would lead to a significant change in the UK if adopted.
The proposal also suggests increasing the amount of compulsory maternity leave, i.e. the period of time after birth when a women is prevented by law from returning to work, to at least six weeks. Compulsory maternity leave is currently only 2 weeks in the UK for all workplaces other than factories where the period is 4 weeks.
If approved, the amendment will begin its passage through the European Parliament and Council of Ministers, although Commissioner Spidla admitted to journalists recently that it is likely there would be a long and hard road ahead before implementation.
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