“The additional flexibility will help take some pressure off working parents, who can use the extra leave to, say, work a four-day week for part of the year, or take more time off during school holidays when their children are at home.”

Up to half a million families could benefit from extensions to unpaid parental leave under a Social Democrats private members bill which is scheduled to pass through the Oireachtas today.

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 finishes up in the Dáil today, Tuesday 14th May, and will come into force on 1st September 2019.

The Bill allows parents of children under 12 years old to take a total of six months (26 weeks) unpaid leave from their jobs without their employment rights being affected. This is an increase on the current maximum of four months (18 weeks) of unpaid parental leave per child – the minimum allowable under EU law.

The Bill also increases the age of a qualifying child from current 8 years old to 12. The government and all opposition parties have shown their support for the Bill, which has attracted considerable interest from working parents.

The party’s co-leader Róisín Shortall TD said:

“From 1st September, the extended unpaid work leave provided for in our Bill will become a potential option for parents of up to 817,000 children aged up to 12 years old in up to 477,000 families.

“We know from parents who have been in touch with us that there is huge demand for more flexibility when it comes to juggling work and family obligations. This Bill is an important extension of entitlement to unpaid leave that will give more parents more flexibility to strike a better work life balance.

“The additional flexibility will help take some pressure off working parents, who can use the extra leave to, say, work a four-day week for part of the year, or take more time off during school holidays when their children are at home.

The Social Democrats’ Spokesperson on Children, Greystones Councillor Jennifer Whitmore, added:

“The additional leave that will become available from next September will give working parents that bit more flexibility around their work schedules. That could make the difference between mothers staying in their jobs or quitting out of exhaustion and stress. For employers who are keen to retain women workers, our proposals offer increased flexibility around work schedules, encouraging women to remain in the workforce and helping to reduce childcare costs.”

Notes to Editors:

According to recent figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, there are 477,365 families in receipt of Child Benefit for 816,518 children aged 11 and under.

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 extends unpaid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks for all parents and extends the qualifying age of a child from 8 to 12 years.

The extended leave will be introduced in two phases. From 1st September 2019, an additional four weeks leave will be made available. From 1st September 2020, a further four weeks leave will be introduced, bringing the total amount of unpaid parental leave available to parents to 26 weeks.

The Social Democrats are also committed to the introduction of paid parental leave, and proposed such a move in each of our alternative Budget proposals since 2016.

Under Dáil rules, opposition parties are prevented from proposing Bills where there is a cost to the State. This is why we have focused on unpaid parental leave in this Bill.

Ireland is well behind other countries when it comes to parental leave. Many countries allow parents four sets of leave – maternity, paternity, parental, and childcare/carers. According to the European Commission, the average duration of combined maternity and parental leave among Member States is 97.8 weeks. In Ireland the maximum for a woman is only 60 and it’s only 20 for a man.

ENDS

14th May 2019