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Ferris calls for better deal for working mothers

20 February, 2004

Sinn Féin TD for North Kerry today criticised the Maternity Protection Bill for not going far enough in facilitating women who wish to combine work with caring for their children. Deputy Ferris was speaking during a debate on the Bill in the Dáil this afternoon.

Deputy Ferris said: "While I welcome the introduction of any bill which seeks to ameliorate the rights and employment conditions of workers, it is disappointing that this Bill actually delivers very little for women seeking to combine motherhood with work. All the provisions contained within it are minimal and do not seek to make any real difference to the lives of working women.

"Once again we have a Bill before us which is being sold as an achievement of social partnership whereas in actuality we are simply belatedly giving working women what are basic rights. Maternity protection is at the forefront of the battle to bring about a better work-life balance for workers. It is also vital in the battle to combat social exclusion and poverty.

"The necessity for Maternity protection legislation is a recognition that in the workplace pregnant women and new mothers face many barriers and indeed the number of pregnancy discrimination cases which have come before the Equality Authority and the courts in recent years is evidence that many employers have yet to accept the basic principles of maternity protection.

"Maternity policy needs to be centred on the needs of parents and children first and then on the needs of the employer. Many employers are hanging on to outdated 19th century industrialist attitudes which viewed the worker as merely another cog in the machinery of their factory. Sinn Fein does not believe that the maternity leave provided for in this legislation is adequate. We are calling for the pre-confinement period of maternity leave to be left at four weeks and for the total period of leave to be increased to 26 weeks to allow a greater period of leave after childbirth. This is absolutely necessary given the difficulties in terms of childminding faced by working mothers today. If we do not facilitate such an increase in maternity leave we will end up forcing working mothers to leave their employment." ENDS

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