MOSCOW, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Women marched in cities across Russia to protest a new system for maternity leave opponents say could result in lower payments.
The new rules, which became effective Jan. 1, direct that maternity benefit rates will be based on salaries for the two years of work prior to taking the leave, up from one year.
Pregnant women, new mothers and human rights activists rallied against the new system in St. Petersburg, Perm and Novosibirsk, RIA Novosti reported.
"We all know that recent years were years of economic crisis, especially 2009, the peak of the downturn, when many women had no work or worked episodically or their salaries were cut short," Vladimir Alexeytsev, an organizer for the march in Novosibirsk, said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also called on lawmakers to reconsider the new rules so women could be allowed to decide what work period on which their benefits would be based, RIA Novosti said.