The European Commission unveiled plans to extend minimum maternity leave in Europe from 14 to 18 weeks, a move which would force several EU nations to offer more support to new mothers.
The European Commission proposed on Friday to extend the minimum fully paid maternity leave in the 27-nation bloc from 14 weeks to 18 and to give better job protection to women taking or returning from such leave.
Longer maternity leave should make it easier for women for return to work after giving birth, the Commission said.
The EU executive also proposed that self-employed women should get the same maternity leave as salaried employees so that they would not be put off becoming self-employed.
The proposals are part of an EU drive to get more women into the workforce and cope with problems posed by the ageing of the European population.
British Conservative member of the European Parliament Philip Bushill-Matthews criticised the proposal as detrimental to small business and said national governments should decide such things.
"Decisions regarding maternity leave and maternity pay should be made by national governments, not the EU," he said.
"Flexible working and work-life balance must be encouraged but it is not for Brussels to tell British mothers and fathers how much leave they should take," he said.
"Small businesses will struggle to afford this extra cost. Ultimately some of the smallest businesses may think twice about employing young women through fear of them going on maternity leave," he said.
Date created : 2008-10-04