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Queries on maternity leave are worryingly high - Mary Lou McDonald

20 May, 2004

Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate for the Dublin constituency, Mary Lou McDonald has today said that the volume of queries to the Equality Authority regarding maternity leave were 'worryingly high' and 'proof that women are not receiving enough information on their maternity rights and entitlements.'

Ms McDonald was speaking after she attended yesterdays launch of the Equality Authority's Annual Report 2003.

Ms McDonald said:

"I would like to congratulate the hard work of the Equality Authority since its formation under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement 1n 1998.

"Their Annual Report 2003 makes for some interesting reading. Last year, the Equality Authority received 2,951 queries regarding maternity leave - this is a worryingly high figure.

"The volume of calls over one year suggests that there are still a number of issues surrounding the rights and entitlements of pregnant women. Discrimination is still occurring in this area, as witnessed by the high number of pregnancy discrimination cases before the courts.

"There is also a disparity on this island on the issue of maternity leave. In the Six Counties, women are entitled to 26 weeks paid maternity leave, with another 26 weeks unpaid. In this state, under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Bill currently before the Oireachtas women will only entitled to 18 weeks, with a further 4 unpaid leave. Sinn Féin calls for an all-Ireland approach to maternity leave, and is attempting to amend the Bill currently before the Dáil to raise maternity leave to 26 weeks paid followed by an optional 26 weeks unpaid or on an equal par currently statutory entitlements in the Six Counties". ENDS

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