Reacting to plans by the European Commission to expand paid maternity leave for women on the continent to 18 months, von der Leyen said they could raise the financial risks for employers who hire young women.
The minister, a mother of seven, said the plans could lead to higher non-wage labour costs and hinder the creation of new jobs in Germany.
“On the other hand, we would also be creating new hurdles for young women who are looking for a job,” von der Leyen said.
She pointed out that women in Germany currently enjoy strong legal protection when they become pregnant in terms of maternity leave, child benefits and lay-off protection.
Women in Germany are currently entitled to 14 months of paid maternity leave. In Britain and Ireland, women enjoy 26 weeks while in the Czech Republic, it's as high as 28 weeks. In France, women who give birth to twins are entitled to a paid break of 34 weeks.