New maternity rights will strain UK businesses

Europe’s upcoming efforts to change maternity rights are expected to cost UK firms an additional £2.5bn every year according to a warning from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The proposals go up to vote next month that may allow women who leave work on maternity leave to take 20 weeks of full pay.

The BCC is arguing that the new accommodation is not affordable for most firms especially given the effects of the recession.  However, proponents of the proposals are arguing that it would be unethical to turn down the policy based on the economic downturn since it will only be a temporary situation.

At the moment women in the UK are allowed one year off from work out of which the first six weeks come with 90% of their salary and then 33 weeks of statutory maternity pay set at only £125 per week.  The rest of the absence is unpaid.

The BCC believes that extending paid absence will cost too much and head of European affairs for the BCC, Kieran O’Keeffe stated that the policy should be about creating better standards for pregnant workers that protects their safety and health instead of adding on more payroll costs for companies.

O’Keeffe added that the figure of £2.5bn confirms that the proposals will not be affordable especially given the fact that most EU governments are looking at how to promote recovery amidst large budget deficits.

The European Commission originally stated that maternity leave should only be extended to 18 weeks which O’Keeffe considered a better option.