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Business Minister lobbies Europe against "costly and regressive" maternity proposals

Embargoed until 00.01 Monday 6th December - Business Minister lobbies Europe against "costly and regressive" maternity proposals

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 03 December 2010

Edward Davey, Minister for Employment Relations, will visit Brussels today to continue the UK Government’s lobbying on the Pregnant Workers Directive.

Mr. Davey will attend a meeting of the EU Employment Council (EPSCO) – the first opportunity that Member States have had to discuss proposals put forward by MEPs in October.

The Government is concerned that a move to 20 weeks of maternity leave at full pay, as proposed by the European Parliament, would impose considerable and unacceptable additional costs on many Member States at a time when economies across the EU can least afford it. Ministers also believe that the proposals put forward are socially regressive.

In advance of the meeting Mr Davey said:

"The proposals put forward by MEPs would be extremely costly to business and also to the public purse. They are also socially regressive – the greatest benefits would be obtained by those earning the most - and the rigid model being proposed would make it hard for countries to develop systems of shared parental leave which would offer better support to working parents.

"I will be lobbying against these costly and regressive proposals today and making our case to Member States – I know that many of them already share our concerns.

"Minimum standards across Europe are important, but countries also need the flexibility to put in place arrangements that work for them in their own individual circumstances.

"We are absolutely committed to creating the best possible family-friendly environment in the UK, but the solutions on the table today are not the best way to help."

It is estimated that the proposals put forward by the European Parliament would cost the UK more than £2 billion per year.

The UK is committed to introducing a new system of shared parental leave and extending the right to request flexible working to all employees. The Government will be consulting shortly on this subject with stakeholders and interested parties.

Notes to editors:

Currently in the UK, the standard rate of £124.88 per week 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 69% of salary as their total maternity pay during the period of paid leave. On a salary of £30,000pa women receive 32% of salary and at £60,000pa receive 23%.Under the Parliament’s proposals, a woman earning £10,000pa would only get 20% more maternity pay, whereas a woman earning £60,000pa would receive 146% more. Key elements of the European Parliament’s proposal are:

- 20 week’s maternity leave, in principle at full pay;

- 20 weeks’ adoption leave on the same terms;

-2 weeks’ paternity leave at full pay.

The UK government committed to “encourage shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy – including the promotion of a system of flexible parental leave” as part of the Coalition agreement alongside commitments promoting equal pay, taking measures to end discrimination in the workplace, and extending the right to request flexible working to all employees. 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. The European Parliament adopted its first reading position on the Pregnant Workers Directive on 20 October 2010, and the Council of Ministers is now considering its position. Until the Council adopts its first reading position, these proposals will not progress further.BIS' 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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