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Calls for Govt to fix maternity leave issues for mothers diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy

Approximately 60 women are impacted by the legislation every year, according to the Society.

Image: Shutterstock

THE IRISH CANCER Society have called on the Government to change legislation to allow women who are being treated or recovering from cancer to defer their maternity leave.

The new “Leave our Leave” campaign was launched today outside Leinster House, with the Irish Cancer Society writing to Minister Roderic O’Gorman seeking to have the issue addressed.

Under current legislation, the Maternity Protection Act 2004, anyone who is diagnosed with cancer or other serious illnesses during pregnancy must use their maternity leave to cover the treatment.

According to the Irish Cancer Society, the only way maternity leave can be postponed is if a child is hospitalised.

Approximately 60 women are impacted by the legislation every year and the issue only emerges when they attempt to pause the maternity leave while being treated.

Erica Tierney, a mother from Kildare who was impacted by the legislation said that she was hardly able to walk to the shop but had lost out on her maternity leave due to her diagnosis.

“I had a mastectomy at 33 weeks pregnant in October 2019 and my little girl Róise was delivered a little early in November 2019,” Tierney said.

After just three weeks of recuperation, I then went on to have chemotherapy from November to March and, radiotherapy in April. I thought I would be on illness benefit and keep my maternity leave for when I was no longer too ill to look after my baby fully.

“Because I had to go on illness benefit after my maternity leave ended I also couldn’t postpone my 16 weeks unpaid leave either and lost that too.

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“My maternity leave ended the week after I finished treatment. I was really sick from treatment, totally bald and hardly able to shuffle to the shop let alone go back to work. Yet that was my maternity leave gone.”

Director of Advocacy and External Affairs of the Irish Cancer Society, Rachel Morrogh said that the society has appealed to Minister O’Gorman to make amendments to the legislation.

“The women affected are vulnerable and traumatised by such happy and sad life events coinciding. Being able to keep their maternity leave until the end of their treatment would go some way to being able to claw back special bonding time from cancer,” said Morrogh.

She added that she hoped the Government would take swift action on the “straight-forward and common-sense issue”.

About the author:

Tadgh McNally

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