In an answer to a parliamentary question submitted by Marina Yannakoudakis MEP, EU Vice-President for fundamental rights Viviane Reding refused to withdraw the Commission’s proposals for maternity leave regulation which would cost countries like the UK almost  €3 billion  (£2.5bn) a year

The discredited Maternity Leave Directive (aka Pregnant Workers Directive) has been in legislative limbo since the European Parliament extended the Commission’s proposal for 18-weeks compulsory paid maternity leave to 20 weeks in October 2010.

Conservative Women’s Rights Spokesman Marina Yannakoudakis was able to secure a postponement of the damaging proposals by requesting an impact assessment of the 20-week leave. Following the results of the assessment which revealed the crippling costs to both small businesses and to the public purse, EU Member States have been reluctant to move forward with the plans.

In her answer to the London MEP’s question, Vice-President Reding insisted that the Maternity Leave Directive was alive and well following a letter written by MEPs to the Irish Presidency of the EU at the end of its term in June.

MEPs – spurred on by Ireland’s Minister of State for Equality, Labour’s Kathleen Lynch, who is understood to support the proposal – called on the Irish Presidency to move “the Maternity Leave dossier out of the current deadlock.” Marina Yannakoudakis was one of the few MEPs who refused to sign the letter.

In the business taskforce’s recent report to British Prime Minister David Cameron on EU red tape, the taskforce – which drew evidence from 90 UK businesses and business organisations and over 20 business organisations across Europe – issued the recommendation that “The European Commission should withdraw its proposal to amend the Pregnant Workers Directive”.

In response to Vice-President Reding’s answer, Mrs. Yannakoudakis said: “Once again, the Commission is determined to plough on with its legislative agenda in spite of overwhelming evidence that the Maternity Leave Directive would be bad for business and bad for the economy.

“Confidence in the EU is at an all-time low. And no wonder when the Commission insists on constant interference in Member States’ employment law. The EU continues to ride rough-shod over sovereign countries which have made it clear that they do not want to implement Mrs. Reding’s injurious Maternity Leave Directive.”