Bill to extend parental leave to six months introduced in Dáil

The Bill also proposes the extension of maternity leave and maternity benefit for mothers of premature babies

The Social Democrats have introduced a Bill to the Dáil which would extend unpaid parental leave to six months.

Under current rules, parents have an entitlement to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave. Under the Social Democrats proposed change to the law, the entitlement would be extended to 26 weeks.

Speaking as she introduced the Bill this afternoon, Róisín Shortall TD said: "This Bill is good for children; good for parents and good for employers. This Bill is primarily about achieving a better work-life balance.

"For working parents, there is a constant struggle to do the best they can for their children while holding down a job. Increased parental time supports stronger bonds with children; improves female participation in the workforce; provides flexibility to parents, including around school holidays; and can reduce childcare costs."

She continued: "Parents in Ireland have had to rely on EU rules rather than our own rules around parental leave rights, and previous Governments have gone for just above the minimum provided for in EU law.

This Bill seeks to bring us another step towards the EU norm. We are committed to extend paid parental leave, but are restricted, as an opposition party, by Dáil rules from doing so."

As well as the above, the Bill proposes the extension of maternity leave and maternity benefit for mothers of premature babies.

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Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Childcare Kathleen Funchion TD said

“Currently, there are absolutely no supports or allowances for parents of premature babies at State level [...] The extension of maternity leave for mothers with premature babies is a move that is already happening in New Zealand, Britain, and many other states. We should follow suit and implement this change immediately. Statutory maternity leave, and crucially pay, should be extended for mothers of premature babies, to give families the additional emotional and financial support they need.”

The Green Party welcomed the support of all parties and groupings in the Dáil for their motion on extending the maternity leave and benefit of mothers of premature babies, but warned the Government it must follow up on their supportive words during the Dáil debate with meaningful action in Budget 2018.

Green Party Deputy Leader Catherine Martin TD said: “Extending maternity leave and maternity benefit for mothers of premature babies will give huge support at a time of massive upheaval and stress. This in turn will lead to better postnatal health, a better outcome for the baby and eventually a more positive return to work.

"That mothers aren’t getting this support already is truly awful because when premature babies finally get discharged from hospital they need their mothers more than ever and their mothers need to be with them too.

The Bill is available here.