The European Parliament has passed initial proposals for legislation which would extend maternity leave to a minimum of 18 weeks on full pay.
Currently new mothers in the UK get six weeks on 90 of women taking up the full paid entitlement.
He added, "A substantial increase in maternity leave at full or near-full pay risks undermining this delicate balance at a time when economies across the EU can least afford it."
Sweden is often cited as an example of extremely generous maternity provision. All working parents are entitled to 16 months paid leave per child, to be shared between the parents.
The cost for Sweden's policy is divided between the state and employers. Currently in the UK, most of the burden of statutory maternity pay is taken by the government, but there are fears that if the costs rise, then businesses will be forced to take on more of the expense.
Supporters of maternity rights often claim that better pay and more time off benefits women in the workplace and redresses equality issues, but there are also strong arguments that the opposite is true.
Although it's often seen as a question of equality in the workplace, perhaps the real beneficiaries of greater maternity and paternity rights are the children, not the parents.
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