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Brussels Calls for Longer Maternity Leave

The European Commission has proposed extending paid maternity leave in the EU and giving better job security to women on such leave.

Mother with child

The EU Commission proposals seek to get more women into the workforce

The proposal called for more flexible working hours for women returning to work after giving birth, and would see fully paid maternity leave lengthened from 14 weeks to 18, which should make it easier for new mothers to return to work, the Commission said.

Self-employed women would also get the same maternity leave as salaried employees under the proposal, the Commission said.

"Only 65.5 percent of women with dependent children are in work, compared with 91.7 percent of men. Our proposals to improve maternity leave will help women to combine work and family life," EU Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said.

"They should also help increase women's participation in the labour market and help face up to the challenges of demographic ageing," he noted.

Longer leave will effect business: Bushill-Matthews

But British Conservative member of the European Parliament Philip Bushill-Matthews labelled the proposal counterproductive for small business and said the matter should be handled at a state level, not a European level.

"Flexible working and work-life balance must be encouraged but it is not for Brussels to tell British mothers and fathers how much leave they should take," he said.

"Small business will struggle to afford this extra cost. Ultimately some of the smallest businesses may think twice about employing young women through fear of them going on maternity leave."

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