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Progress in bid to stop costly and regressive maternity proposals

Ministers from across Europe expressed their concerns with proposals put forward by MEPs during a meeting of the EU Employment Council (EPSCO…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Ministers from across Europe expressed their concerns with proposals put forward by MEPs during a meeting of the EU Employment Council (EPSCO) in Brussels.

They share the belief that the European Parliament’s proposed move to 20 weeks of maternity leave at full pay could impose considerable and unacceptable additional costs on many Member States at a time when economies across the EU can least afford it.

Minister for Employment Relations Edward Davey said:

“The UK and other countries have today made clear that EU rules on maternity rights should not be reformed in a costly and regressive way. The changes proposed by MEPs would restrict a Member State’s ability to deliver a system that works in the best interests of parents.

“We have agreed that we must pause for reflection before we determine how, or indeed if, an acceptable compromise can be reached. On the basis of the current proposals it is difficult to see how such a compromise can be achieved.”

Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment, who represented the Government during the meeting where issues such as pensions, gender equality, employment policy and climate change were also discussed said:

“This is an important development. Member States have made plain their concerns. There couldn’t be a clearer sign of the strength of feeling than the joint statement tabled today.”

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

This Directive is subject to the co-decision procedure, which means that proposals must be agreed by Member States and the European Parliament.

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 issue with stakeholders and interested parties.

Notes to editors:

  1. The travel disruption caused by the inclement weather prevented Minister for Employment Relations Edward Davey attending the meeting as well.
  2. 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%.
  3. 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.
  4. 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;

-Two weeks’ paternity leave at full pay.

  1. The UK government is 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.
  2. Under the Ordinary Legislative Procedure (formerly known as the “co-decision” procedure) the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers each adopt a first 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.
  3. Council met today for its first exchange of views. Along with seven other countries the UK tabled a minute statement. The Presidency concluded it would prepare a note before the end of their presidency setting out the way for negotiations to proceed.
  4. 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.

Notes to Editors

Contact Information

Name BIS Press Office Job Title

Division COI Phone




Name Joe Upton Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Phone 020 7215 5959 Fax



Published 6 December 2010