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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C

Councillors can avail of paid maternity leave beginning next year

Councillors can also be given funding to hire someone to assist with secretarial work.

CABINET HAS APPROVED a scheme to allow county and city councillors to take paid maternity leave and will give them the choice to appoint an individual as a temporary substitute in their absence.

Currently female councillors are office-holders rather than employees and are not covered by the statutory framework for employees on issues such as maternity leave.

Today cabinet has approved of a legislative provision for female councillors to access  maternity leave under the Maternity Protection Act 1994 by granting them the same rights as female employees.

The Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke TD, welcomed the move today and said that it made politics more accessible to women.

“Today’s cabinet decision allows us to address a deficit which should not exist in a 21st century workplace, to provide full maternity leave for our councillors.”

“Our rate of female participation in both local and national government is shamefully low, and I believe this measure will remove another obstacle and allow us to make the role of a councillor more accessible to half of our population,” he said.

The maternity leave scheme was informed by an all-female working group established by Minister Burke last year made up of seven female councillors, nominated by the main political parties as well as an independent councillor.

“Councillors will soon have the choice to have an individual fill in for them while they are on leave.   This would apply for all votes, all meetings and all elements of the role,” Burke continued.

“Previously, I was aware of situations where councillors felt pressure to turn up to important votes or debates, when they needed to be at home caring for a new baby.  It is not credible maternity leave if you cannot fully switch off from your work.”

If a councillor does not want to have a substitute, but would like more administrative support, they will be given funding to hire someone to assist with secretarial work.

“We see many Oireachtas members starting off their political careers in local government so these measures will also have a positive effect on gender equality in our Dáil and Seanad Chambers,” Burke added.   

Last year Minister for Justice Helen McEntee became the second serving minister to announce her pregnancy in the history of the State, and the first while holding Cabinet rank. 

McEntee became a minister without a portfolio during six months of paid maternity leave, while Minister Heather Humphreys temporarily held her position due to a lack of existing framework for such a situation.

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