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Government opposes maternity leave plan

EU plans to extend maternity leave on full pay to 20 weeks in the UK would lead to "unacceptable" costs, according to the government.

Ed Davey Employment Relations Minister will tell a meeting in Brussels that the plans by the European Parliament would be "socially regressive".

Currently, women can take up to a year's maternity leave, of which 39 weeks are paid. However, for most of those weeks the weekly payment is capped at £124.88.

The government says that those on the lowest incomes receive the highest proportion of their usual pay under the current system.

Women on an annual salary of £10,000 receive 69% of their salary, while those on £30,000 receive 32% and at £60,000 it falls to 23%.

Mr Davey said before the meeting of the EU Employment Council: "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."

Ministers estimated that the proposals put forward by the European Parliament would cost the UK more than £2bn a year.

As well as the 20 weeks on full pay, the European Parliament is also proposing 20 weeks adoption leave on the same terms and two weeks' paternity leave at full pay.

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European Parliament