Access to affordable childcare combined with extended leave entitlements crucial
Speaking during the second stage debate on the Adoptive Leave Bill 2004 Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment Arthur Morgan T.D. called for further increases in adoptive and maternity leave entitlements and the introduction of Paternity Leave. He was also sharply critical of the failure of the government to intervene to ensure that all parents have access to affordable childcare.
Deputy Morgan said, "Adoptive mothers should receive the same leave and pay entitlements as natural mothers. Adoptive leave, like parental leave and Maternity protection is at the forefront of the battle to bring about a better work-life balance for workers.
"Statutory maternity benefit in Ireland remains low in comparison to other EU states. Sinn Féin does not believe that the maternity leave provided for in this legislation is adequate. We are calling for the total period of leave to be increased to 26 weeks to allow a greater period of leave after adoption. 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 adoptive leave and maternity leave we will end up forcing working mothers to leave their employment.
"Ireland ranked bottom of the list along with Greece and Luxembourg in terms of statutory maternity pay levels and maternity leave in an international global analysis of employment conditions and benefits in 60 countries which was published in 2003.
"Ireland also ranks bottom of the list in terms of Paternity leave. Most countries in the EU offer paid paternity leave, from two days in Spain to two weeks in France. Fathers north of the border are entitled to 2 weeks paternity leave yet in this state there is no entitlement at all. I believe it should be brought in as a mater of urgency if there is any commitment from this government to progress the goal of increasing work life balance.
"The quality of life for parents, working mothers and fathers with small children is severely worsened by the lack of affordable childcare. Parents are faced with a stark choice of losing one income if one parent stays at home with the child or struggling to find a place for the child in an expensive crèche.
"The reality is that this disappointing Bill offers very little, and without significant advances in the provision of affordable childcare we will see more women leaving the workforce because there are either no childcare places available or what is available is too expensive. Good quality childcare must be made available to all especially to those on low incomes. A universal entitlement to free pre-school must be introduced. The progress on childcare to date from this Government has been miserable." ENDS