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Most firms 'exceed minimum maternity pay'

A new survey has highlighted the importance of providing generous maternity pay.
Nearly three quarters of companies offer their employees more than the statutory maternity pay, new research has revealed.

Over half (52 per cent) of the 115 companies questioned in the Incomes Data Services (IDS) survey, employing some 470,000 people, do not think that the current statutory entitlement is enough.

Just one per cent of respondents said that the current arrangements for maternity pay are too generous.

Statutory paid maternity leave lasts for 39 weeks. Women are entitled to 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks and £117.18 per week for the remaining 33 weeks.

There were government plans to extend maternity pay to 52 weeks by April 2010, but in light of the current economic downturn, new business secretary Lord Mandelson has said that the "appropriateness" of the measures are being carefully considered.

Nevertheless, the IDS survey suggests that the vast majority of employers recognise the benefits of providing maternity pay.

Sylvia Lo, assistant editor of IDS Diversity at Work, said: "Encouraging women to come back after maternity leave saves the laborious process of searching for someone new to fill the skills gap.

"If the mother is highly skilled, has worked for the company a long time, or has built up strong working relationships, it can be quite costly and difficult to recruit someone new and train them."

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