Plans to extend maternity leave across Europe to 20 weeks on full pay have been put on hold pending a study of the impact on women and employers.
The proposal, backed by the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee last month, has been condemned as a massive extra burden on business if it became law.
The suggestion goes even further than the European Commission’s controversial proposal for 18 weeks’ maternity leave on full pay.
Now plans for a full European Parliament vote have been delayed after the European Conservatives and Reformists group of MEPs demanded a full “impact assessment”.
The group’s spokesman on the European Parliament’s women’s committee, London Conservative Marina Yannakoudakis, said the delay would give MEPs time to take a “long hard look” at the costs of the proposals to small businesses and governments.
She said: “I am pleased that we have been able to agree a postponement of the vote so that we can have a clear assessment of the costs. I hope that, once they realise the damage that could be done to business, MEPs will rethink the plans.
“The EU should not be deciding how much time new mothers and fathers should take off. That is a matter for national governments and an individual’s personal choice. These plans would reduce a woman’s right to choose, and make young women less employable. It’s time for these plans to be taken back to the drawing board.”
She said if the plan becomes law, it will become much harder for women of child-bearing age to get work.
The issue is now expected to be debated by MEPs in May.