The amount of maternity leave granted to mothers in the UK could increase if new plans are approved by the European Parliament.

New plans drawn up by the Women’s Rights Committee of the European Parliament are due to be debated at the next parliamentary session on May 5th and 6th.

If passed through, the maternity directive would mean that women could be entitled to at least 20 weeks of paid maternity leave. This is substantially more than the six weeks currently available to women in the UK.

Moreover, they would be rules to prevent discrimination of new mothers, who would be offered protection from dismissal or redundancy during the first six months of returning to work from maternity leave.

Edite Estrela, who compiled the committee’s report, explained: "The aim is to have a positive impact on the state of health of mothers, to enable them to recover more easily after giving birth and to establish a strong relationship with the child."

As well as six weeks paid leave at 90 per cent of their earnings, working mothers in the UK are also given 33 weeks leave at £117.18.