Manufacturers lobby against maternity rights

Manufacturers will today urge the Government to to block new rights for pregnant workers. The Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) welcomes the Government's "one in one out" approach to regulation but stresses that ministers should block a European Union directive to boost the right to paid maternity and paternity leave.

The lobby group said the directive could add £2.5bn to costs for business.

The EEF also wants ministers to rethink UK proposals such as Equal Pay Audits and fines on employers who lose employment tribunals.

Other measures on its shopping list include maintaining Britain's opt-out from the Working Time Directive and resisting demands from unions in Europe for changes to the directive.

It further wants to ensure that any new measures on the right to request flexible working and parental leave make it simple for employers to turn them down on economic grounds. Also in the EEF's sight are proposals to remove Equality Act provisions that impose liability on employers for third party harassment that they fail totake reasonable steps to prevent.

The EEF also wants to see delivery on proposals to increase the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from a year to two years. At the weekend the Chancellor, George Osborne, said that this particular demand would be met.

The lobbying group's director of policy, Steve Radley, said: "Industry has supported the Government's approach to reducing regulation but now needs to start see it delivering results. Achieving culture change in Whitehall and Brussels is not easy but with growth flagging, we cannot wait for long-term results." Mr Radley cited the Agency Workers Directive – which gives agency workers similar employment rights to those enjoyed by full-time staff – as an example of a measure that has loaded additional costs on employers. Unions, however, point out that working time is, in many cases, increasing as jobs are cut.