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Maternity leave extension proposed by government

The EU Commission has proposed longer maternity leave for women in EU countries.
The EU Commission has proposed longer maternity leave for women in EU countries.

Under the new scheme, fully-paid maternity leave would be extended from 14 weeks to 18 weeks, during which time female employees would be entitled to 100 per cent pay or the equivalent of sick pay.

The commission also said that the same rights should apply to women who are self-employed.

Many countries in the EU currently offer women less than 18 weeks maternity leave and pay levels and conditions also greatly differ across the nations.

However the commission claims that offering longer leave will encourage women to return to work after having children.

Under the proposed new rules, women in EU countries would have their jobs protected and they would not be able to be sacked either during or immediately after maternity leave, the BBC reports.

EU Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said that the new plans to help women return to work would help to off-set Europe's ageing workforce.

He added: "Our proposals to improve maternity leave will help women to combine work and family life, improving their and their family's quality of life."

But Conservative MEP Philip Bushill-Matthews criticised the move, saying that it is not up to Brussels to "tell British mothers and fathers how much leave they should take".

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