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Government considers maternity leave proposal

The government is considering a proposal to keep new mother's jobs open for a year
Companies may be forced to keep the jobs of women on maternity leave open for 12 months after a deal between the government and unions.

Ministers are considering a proposal drawn up in response to union demands at the National Policy Forum last month, reports the Daily Mail.

However, there appears to be disagreement in the government, according to the newspaper, with Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman in favour of extending the period to a year, while Alistair Darling, the chancellor, is concerned on the pressure it will put on businesses.

Mr Darling's stance was backed by some business leaders, who were worried about the proposal in light of the economic downturn.

"This is a further erosion of flexibility in the labour market, which is bad news for our members in the current economic climate," the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, David Frost, told the newspaper.

"For small firms in particular, keeping an employee's post open for this period of time is simply not possible and is only likely to get harder when the agency workers directive is implemented."

Currently, businesses must keep a new mother's job open for up to six months, after which they may offer a "suitable alternative" if it is not "reasonably practicable" to keep the post open.

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