Maternity leave has been extended to nine months in UK
Businesses in UK claim reforms ofmaternity leavewhich came into force yesterday will saddle them with a ￡2billion bill.
The period of paid leave to which new mothers are entitled has been extended from six to nine months.
Lobbyists say this is good for working women - but bad for business. The￡2billion cost will come from recruiting and training workers to cover new mothers' longer absences.
Family groups, however, welcomed Labour's extension of maternity leave, which they say will encourage women to stay home with their children for longer.
The Forum of Private Business said it was worried about the changes. Chief Executive Nick Goulding said: 'The extension of maternity leave is a major concern for many small businesses.
"It would appear that little thought has been given to the financial impact for businesses who can't easily find a replacement for the absent worker."
Small firms which employ fewer than 49 people account for 99 per cent of all UK businesses. Mr Goulding said these companies will struggle the most.
The average cost of filling a job vacancy is ￡10,000, according to recruitment consultancy Angela Mortimer.
This includes the 'hard' costs, such as placing a job advert, and the 'hidden' costs, such as time spent conducting interviews.
Ashley Williams, a director of Angela Mortimer, warned: "Business leaders are frequently unaware of the true costs involved in recruiting new people.
"Intangible costs such as time spentsifting throughCVs need to be taken into accounton top ofthe more obvious expenses."