Strasbourg, 10th March 2010 — European Parliament plans to grant pregnant women twenty weeks of maternity leave on full pay have been shelved pending a full impact assessment, following demands by the European Conservatives and Reformists group.

Marina Yannakoudakis MEP, ECR women’s committee coordinator, said that she hoped the extra time would enable MEPs to take a ‘long hard look’ at the costs of the proposals to both small businesses and to the public purse. She also said that the directive would hurt women, by increasing the risk of them being indirectly discriminated against in the workplace.

Maternity leave is currently set by a 1992 EU directive, which sets a minimum duration of 14 weeks. The new proposal published by the commission extends that to 18 weeks with a non-compulsory recommendation that it is on full pay. However, the Women’s Rights committee has voted to increase it to 20 weeks, all on compulsory full pay. It also introduces a two week paternity leave provision.

The report, which was due to be adopted later this month, is now expected to be debated in May, following the UK general election.

Mrs Yannakoudakis said:

“MEPs need to take a long hard look at the cost of these plans to governments and businesses. I am pleased that we have been able to agree a postponement of the vote so that we can have a clear assessment of the costs of these plans. I hope that, once they realise the damage that could be done to business, MEPs will rethink the plans.

“The vote in the women’s committee was fairly close and I believe that an impact assessment on the parliament’s report could tip the balance in our favour.

“The EU should not be deciding how much time new mothers and fathers should take off. That is a matter for national governments and an individual’s personal choice. These plans would reduce a woman’s right to choose, and make young women less employable. It’s time for these plans to be taken back to the drawing board.”