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Leo Varadkar tells Dáil he will consider extending maternity leave by three months

A petition signed by 25,000 people called for maternity leave to be extended due to a lack of childcare for women returning to work.

Image: Shutterstock/KieferPix

Updated Jun 11th 2020, 1:41 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that he would give consideration to extending maternity leave by three months to help families during a time when childcare provision is lacking.

 A petition calling for the three-month extension has been signed by over 25,000 people. The uncertainty of the childcare sector and unavailability of support from grandparents, who are particularly vulnerable in this crisis, is the reasoning behind a request for this extension. 

A group of TDs, lead by People-Before-Profit TD Bríd Smith, asked the Taoiseach in the Dáil today to consider the maternity leave extension; Smith estimates that the three-month extension would cost €134 million. 

In response, Varadkar said: “I will give it consideration, and I mean that.”

He says he will consider it over the next couple of days, but added that he had concerns that legislation may be required and you can’t bring in retrospective legislation.

But he said that he would give it “due consideration” as he can see the benefits of extending leave for those who have had a new born over the last couple of months.

At 11am today, a group of TDs were presented with the petition by women who are seeking the extension of maternity leave for three months due to the Covid-19 crisis. 

The Labour Party, Sinn Féin, and a group of independent TDs including Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Fitzmaurice, are among the TDs who support a People-Before-Profit motion on the three-month extension.

The motion reads:

That Dáil Éireann notes that, due to the public health emergency, parents of young babies find themselves facing particular challenges, and that there is an added difficulty in securing childcare for new children.
That Dáil Éireann supports a temporary extension of maternity benefit from six to nine months for mothers whose maternity benefit claim expires between the start of March and end of September, if they wish to avail of it.

The Irish government has already made changes to allow women returning from maternity leave to avail of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

Parents on maternity and paternity leave, and people on illness benefit were not entitled to the two support payments (or in some cases, they were not eligible for their full pay package) as the application required a payslip from January or February, and for the employee to be on the payroll on 29 February.

This was after the National Women’s Council and other groups called the exclusion discriminatory and unfair.

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At a briefing today, Liz Canavan announced that the maternity leave exclusion changes had been made to the TWSS, and people could apply for it now by filling out a short form.

Around 20,000 women avail of maternity leave benefits every year; this includes 26 weeks of basic maternity leave where mothers can avail of the Maternity Benefit; and an option of 16 weeks of additional maternity leave.

- with reporting from Christina Finn.

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