By Claire West

At its plenary session on the 18th - 20th October, the European Parliament will vote on controversial proposals to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay.

The European Parliament has conducted an impact assessment on the proposals which shows that the cost of the changes to the UK will be €3 billion (£2.5 billion) per annum.

The UK won't be the only member state to be affected: the Parliament's assessment of the impact on 10 member states, including the UK, puts the projected cost at €121.18 billion over a period of 19 years with the UK cost makes up 47% of the total after projected cost at €121.18 billion over a period of 19 years.

Commenting, Kieran O'Keeffe, Head of European Affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

"MEPs must think carefully about the implications of this directive for already overburdened companies and national social security systems.

"The figures provided in the Parliament's own impact assessment show that these proposals are completely unaffordable, particularly at a time when governments across the EU are dealing with budget deficits and the aftermath of recession.

"The Commission's original proposal to extend maternity leave to 18 weeks, but with individual member states continuing to decide the level of pay, is a better, more affordable option."