13 Jun 2018

Speaking at the ICTU Women’s Conference in Fermanagh on the likely passing of the Social Democrats’ Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 today, ICTU General Secretary Patricia King said:

“This is a positive development which will allow parents to take a total of 26 weeks unpaid leave from their jobs without their employment rights being affected. This is eight weeks more than the current period of 18 weeks unpaid leave. It also allows leave over the lifetime of children up to the age of 12, rising from the current threshold of eight years old.            

“However, as the Social Democrats themselves acknowledge, unpaid leave is not a substitute for paid parental leave; it is a complimentary form of parental leave that offers parents additional flexibility in reconciling work and family life. (NB: Under Dáil rules, opposition parties are prevented from proposing Bills where there is a cost to the State)

“Congress reiterates the need for the introduction of paid parental leave – a move proposed by the European Commission’s proposed work life balance directive. Ireland lags well behind other countries when it comes to paid family leave.

“That is why Congress has joined with trade unions across Europe to demand swift adoption of the new Directive on Work-Life Balance that would enhance women’s work opportunities through provision of better family-related leave and flexible working. If adopted, the proposed Directive would lead to the introduction of paid parental leave on a similar basis to maternity and paternity leave, extend the range of such leave and allow for greater flexibility. It would also provide for a right to flexible working arrangements for workers with children or other dependent relatives,” Ms King concluded.

Congress Equality Officer David Joyce added:

“With up to 50% of workers in Ireland earning less than €34,000 in 2017 and almost one in five classified as low paid, it is clear that many households will be unable to avail of unpaid Parental Leave.

“We strongly urge the Government not to put budgetary concerns before gender equality and workers’ rights. New rights would ensure some women did not have to give up work because of care or family pressures, would reduce care costs, enable greater equality in child-rearing and boost gender equality,” he said.