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SF calls for paid parental leave

10 November, 2005

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has called for the introduction of paid parental leave. Speaking in the Dáil today on the Parental Leave Bill Deputy Ó Caoláin said such an introduction would be a “very positive and progressive step.”

“The basic principle here is that we must put children first. They must be at the centre of the childcare debate. The first priority is the best care for all children. Parents who wish to provide that care themselves in the home must be allowed to do so and without suffering the major drop in income that so many experience at present.

“At present mothers are entitled to 18 weeks paid maternity leave and 8 weeks unpaid. The key demand now is for the Government to change the law to guarantee, as a right, 26 weeks paid maternity leave. This is the position in the Six Counties and it certainly should apply in this jurisdiction. That measure alone would provide vital relief to thousands of people. If there is no provision for this in the promised Government package of measures then that package will be fundamentally flawed. I hope and trust that this will not be the case and that maternity leave will be harmonised on an all-Ireland basis.

“Another omission from this Bill is any reference to Paternity Leave. Public sector employees currently receive a minimal three days paternity leave. But no-one has a statutory entitlement and people must rely on the good will of their employers. This is not acceptable. Many EU member states have now legislated for paid paternity leave so that fathers can spend time with their new-born children. The time provided varies from 18 days in Finland to two days in Greece. The absence of provision of Paternity Leave from this Bill represents another missed opportunity and once again we must await the promised package of measures to see how this will be addressed by Government.

“On Parental Leave itself it is important to stress that a survey has shown only 20% of eligible employees are taking up parental leave. According to a MORI MRC survey, parents are not taking up this leave for the obvious reason that they are not entitled to any payment. Clearly the introduction of paid parental leave would be a very positive and progressive step. Yet, once again, this Bill fails to provide for paid parental leave. 

“Greater flexibility in how parental leave can be taken, as provided for in this Bill, is welcome. However, it could and should go further.”

In conclusion Deputy Ó Caoláin noted that the Labour Party launched a document called ‘Putting Children First’ a year after Sinn Féin launched a Pre-Budget submission with the same title. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” said Deputy Ó Caoláin. ENDS

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