On 3 October the EU Commission unveiled its proposals for a new Directive to extend paid maternity leave and improve maternity rights throughout Europe.

Under the new Directive women will be entitled to at least 18 weeks’ leave (it is currently 14 weeks), six of which must be taken after the birth, with the rest available to be taken either before or after. The Commission has recommended that women be entitled to their full salary during such leave, but this provision is not mandatory and Member States will still be able to set a ceiling on payments, provided it is not below the rate for sick pay. Thirteen Member States (including the UK) already offer women at least 18 weeks’ leave, although countries such as France, Germany and Spain will all have to increase their current provisions.