Extending maternity leave to 20 weeks at full pay in the UK alone will cost 3 billion (2.5 billion) per annum, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.
The industry body has called new plans from the European Parliament to extend maternity leave from six to 20 weeks ‘unaffordable’.
The BCC reports the assessment of the proposed Pregnant Workers’ Directive only looked at the impact on 10 out of the 27 EU states, meaning that when MEPs vote on the proposal in October they will not be able to make a fully informed decision.
The total cost of the proposal for those 10 member states amounts to €121.18 billion over a period of 19 years, of which the UK makes up 47%.
Commenting, Kieran O’Keeffe, head of European Affairs at the BCC, said: "This directive should be about setting minimum EU standards for the health and safety of pregnant workers – not adding new payroll costs for overburdened companies and national social security systems.
"These figures confirm that the Parliament’s proposals are completely unaffordable as governments across the EU seek to deal with budget deficits and the aftermath of recession.
"The Commission’s original proposal to extend maternity leave to 18 weeks, but with individual member states allowed to decide the level of pay, is a better, more affordable option."
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