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Today, Edward Davey, Minister for Employment Relations, 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 where he intends to lobby against these proposals.
The UK government has already committed to introducing a new system of shared parental leave and extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and feels strongly 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.
UK Ministers also believe that the proposals put forward are socially regressive as 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.
Mr Davey was quoted as saying, "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 UK businesses more than £2 billion per year.
Is the UK Government right to challenge the European Parliment's proposals or does the UK need to extend existing Maternity Laws further?
NB: 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.