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European plans for extended maternity leave

The European Commission has suggested that fully-paid maternity leave should be extended to 18 weeks.
The European Commission has suggested that fully-paid maternity leave should be extended to 18 weeks.

It is hoped that a longer paid maternity break would encourage more mothers to return to work after giving birth and lead to a healthier work-life balance.

Under the new proposals, which form part of a wider EU package designed to update working legislation, women in the 27 member states would receive 100 per cent of their salary for 18 weeks, compared to the current 14 weeks.

The new law would make it easier for women to choose when to take the non-compulsory part of their maternity leave. At present women in some EU countries must take a specific portion of maternity leave before childbirth.

Vladimir Spidla, European commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, said: "Juggling work, family and private life is a huge challenge for millions of Europeans, men and women."

"But having children too often costs women their income and their job prospects," he added, highlighting that "only 65.5 per cent of women with dependent children are in work, compared to 91.7 per cent of men".

Mr Spidula said he hopes the proposals will "help women to combine work and family life improving their and their family's quality of life".

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