Maternity leave worst in Europe

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THE UNITED Kingdom is bottom of the European league for giving maternity pay and paid parental leave, according to research published yesterday.

Firms in 15 other countries including Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden are more generous than British companies in the amount of paid leave they give parents, the study by the GMB general workers' union found.

The union's national officer, Donna Covey, said: "The UK is bottom of the heap in providing an archaic and unproductive system which penalises those who seek to have children." She said other countries found the resources to give "reasonable" paid leave to pregnant women and to parents, adding: "it is surely not beyond the resources of our Government to do likewise."

Under new legislation to ensure fairness at work, statutory maternity leave will be extended and workers entitled to unpaid parental leave.

The GMB is campaigning for further improvements, including the right to paid parental leave. It calculated that in the UK, women in private firms with at least two years' service receive the equivalent of 8.6 weeks' full pay on maternity leave. That compares with 16 weeks in Holland, Greece and Spain; 29 weeks in Finland; 31 weeks in Germany; 42 weeks in Sweden and Norway; and 47.7 weeks in Austria.