I was pleased to see the following apology on page four of today’s Daily Mail. It represents the conclusion of a long running dispute
Mary Honeyball MEP
Further to our front page article “Firms face £2 billion maternity leave bill” (24 February), and another article on 25 February, we have been asked by Labour MEP Mary Honeyball to clarify that she had not ‘refused to say which way she voted’ on the EU Pregnant Workers Directive. We have subsequently learned that Ms Honeyball did not, in fact, attend the vote in the Women’s Committee. We are happy to clarify the situation, and apologise for any confusion caused.
As you can see, this dispute has been running since the end of February when the Pregnant Workers’ Directive was voted in Women’s Committee. The Directive seeks to improve maternity provision across the EU, including introducing 20 weeks maternity leave at full pay.
Although I accept that in the current economic circumstances we must be cautious about this proposed Directive, I still firmly believe in what it is trying to do.
In Britain Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid at 90% of earnings for the first 6 weeks followed by a flat rate, which is increased by a few pounds every tax year. From April 2010 to April 2011, it is £124.88. Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for the first 39 weeks of maternity leave, so the flat rate mentioned above will be payable for 33 weeks unless the employer offers something better than this. The women concerned is then entitled to further unpaid leave up to a maximum of 12 months.
Given the situation in this country, the proposed EU Directive providing full pay for 20 weeks would improve maternity pay for the poorest women workers – the very people who will be hit hardest by the rise in VAT announced in George Osborne’s first budget.
I felt it was important to get this message across and to rectify the inaccuracies about me published in the Daily Mail. I now hope that the two journalists who got it wrong, Jason Groves, author of the front page article on 24 February and Kirsty Walker who regurgitated large parts of the same piece on page two the following day, will be more careful in future.
It took a long time to hammer out the apology from the newspaper. Following 15 pieces of correspondence directly with the Daily Mail, I referred the matter to the Press Complaints Commission who facilitated the final agreement. My thanks to them for their prompt attention and helpful attitude.