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ANOTHER case of "EU-inspired lunacy", due to be introduced through legislation this week, means women will not be able to return to work for at least a fortnight after giving birth, McKenna & Co partner Simon Jeffreys says.
Jeffreys, who heads the firm's employment law department, says a requirement in the Pregnant Workers Directive which had been overlooked by the Government until last month means a new ban, set to be introduced from 19 October, will force UK companies to "lock workers out" for 14 days after childbirth.
He says the ban, which will come as a surprise to many employers, was meant to have been included in last year's Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights (Turer) Act. The new regulations mean that workers will be instructed by employers to take two weeks enforced and unpaid leave starting from the day their child is born.
"The Government has dropped something of a bombshell on people who were trying to sort out their employment policies," says Jeffreys.
"While the principle of protecting workers is sound, in this particular instance it may well strike people as yet another case of EU-inspired lunacy.
"No matter how badly women may want to return to work quickly after the birth of their child, and regardless of how fit they feel, this new law means they can't for at least two weeks."
Jeffries is warning companies to be vigilant in following the new law because any contravention is now a criminal offence.
Jeffreys says the ban, which could land employers with a fine of up to u1,000 if it is broken, is "draconian" and "smacks of Big Brother".
He says the European Union does not trust women to make their own judgement on when they are fit to come back to work after childbirth.