Employment Minister, will visit Brussels today to continue the UK
Government’s lobbying on the Pregnant Workers Directive.
Mr. Grayling will attend a meeting of the Employment, Social
Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) during which
the Hungarian Presidency will give an update on the Directive. Mr.
Grayling will reiterate the UK’s opposition to the proposals put
forward by MEPs in October 2010.
The Government is concerned that the measures proposed by MEPs
for 20 weeks of maternity leave at full pay will result in
considerable costs to Member States when they can least afford it.
Ministers also believe the proposals to be socially regressive.
In advance of the meeting, Chris Grayling said:
“The proposals that MEPs put forward are costly for the UK. They
are also socially regressive in that those that are earning the
most will benefit the most from this.
“When Member States are trying to balance their books in
difficult times this is the wrong approach to adopt. Other
Ministers and I will continue to lobby against these measures as
we have done since October. ”
Employment Relations Minister, Edward Davey said:
“As I have repeatedly made clear, what MEPs have tabled is not
the right solution. Minimum standards are important but it should
be down to the individual Member States to adopt their own model –
not for Europe to dictate this.
“We have recently launched our own consultation that looks at
introducing a fully-flexible and family-friendly solution to
parental leave that is tailored to suit the UK. Simply saying 20
weeks at full pay, in a one-size fits all format, is not the way
forward. I am sure that other Members States agree with us here.”
It is estimated that the proposals put forward by the Women’s
Rights and Gender Equality and Employment Committee would cost the
UK alone more than £2 billion per year.
Following the European Parliament’s position agreed in October
2010, the proposals have now come to EPSCO for Ministers of the 27
EU Member States to consider their position. At the EPSCO meeting
last December, the UK joined the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia,
Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Sweden in signing a formal
minutes statement which expressed concern about the proposals.
Discussions on the proposed Directive can go no further unless
Ministers agree a Common Position.
The UK has recently published the consultation document, ‘Modern
Workplaces,’ that looks at introducing a system of flexible
parental leave and extending the right to request flexible working
to all employees. The consultation ends on 8 August.
Notes to editors:
1. In the UK most working women will receive maternity pay when
they have a child. Employed women will usually receive Statutory
Maternity Pay which is paid at 90 per cent of the woman’s average
weekly earnings for six weeks, followed by 33 weeks at a standard
rate which is currently £128.73 per week. Women who don’t qualify
for SMP may receive Maternity Allowance which is paid for 39 weeks
at the same standard rate as Statutory Maternity Pay. This is in
excess of the current EU requirement that maternity pay must be at
least equal to statutory sick pay.
2. Under the European Parliament’s proposal, a woman earning
£10,000 p.a. would only get 20 per cent more maternity pay,
whereas a woman earning £60,000 p.a. would receive 146 per cent more.
3. Currently in the UK, the standard rate means that those on the
lowest incomes receive the highest proportion of their usual
remuneration. For example, women on an annual salary of £10,000pa
receive 70 per cent of salary as their total maternity pay during
the period of paid leave. On a salary of £30,000pa women receive
32 per cent of salary and at £60,000pa receive 23 per cent.
4. Key elements of the European Parliament’s proposal are:
- 20 week’s maternity leave, in principle at full pay
weeks’ adoption leave on the same terms
- two weeks’ paternity
leave at full pay
5. Under the Ordinary Legislative Procedure (formerly known as
the “co-decision” procedure) the European Parliament and the
Council of Ministers each adopt a 1st reading position based on a
proposal from the European Commission. Subsequent stages of the
legislative process aim to reconcile the positions of the two
6. The European Parliament adopted its first reading position on
the Pregnant Workers Directive on 20 October 2010, and the Council
of Ministers first discussed that position on 3 December 2010. At
the December meeting the UK, along with seven other member states
tabled a minutes statement setting out concerns about the European
Parliament’s proposals. Several other member states spoke along
7. The Progress Report is a six month update since the last EPSCO
meeting in December. Until the Council adopts its first reading
position, these proposals will not progress further.
8. Full details on the UK Government's proposals in
the 'Modern Workplaces' consultation can be
found here - http://discuss.bis.gov.uk/modernworkplaces/
9. BIS's online newsroom contains the latest press
notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It
also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See
for more information.
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