More pregnancy leave upsets Euro biz

A pregnant woman at her office work station

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: If you're an expectant mother in this country, the Family and Medical Leave Act gives 12 weeks unpaid leave. But in Europe, pregnant women get 14 weeks. And they get part of their salary. Now there are plans to give them even more and it's got European businesses hot under the collar.

The BBC's Rebecca Singer reports.


REBECCA SINGER: The European Parliament wants to give new mothers 20 weeks off work after giving birth and on full pay. But new research shows it'll cost European countries an extra $160 billion over the next 20 years to make it work.

Business organizations claim the new proposal goes too far and is unaffordable. Kieran O'Keeffe's from the British Chambers of Commerce and says it'll cost British businesses an extra $4 billion a year -- a burden they could really do without.

KIERAN O'KEEFFE: In the current climate -- when businesses are still struggling across Europe and also in the U.K., when public finances are under severe pressure -- it just seems like terrible terrible timing.

But supporters insist it should be passed, regardless of the current economic climate. Belinda Phipps is the chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust.

BELINDA PHIPPS: Those babies form the population of the future, so we shouldn't be letting a temporary financial crisis drive our policy on supporting new mothers.

More than four months on full pay may be a bit hard for European governments to swallow, but they are open to offering women more leave than they currently have.

In London, I'm the BBC's Rebecca Singer for Marketplace.

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