Unpaid parental leave may increase
by Hazel Gavigan

The maximum unpaid parental leave entitlement of 18 weeks per child could rise to 26 weeks if the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017, which passed through the Dáil last week, becomes law. The Bill, which was put down by the Social Democrats, would also extend the threshold for parental leave from eight years of age to 12.


However, it would require Government support to introduce paid parental leave as opposition parties cannot propose Bills at a cost to the state.


Speaking at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) women’s conference in Fermanagh last Wednesday, ICTU general secretary Patricia King said unions wanted the introduction of paid parental leave, she said Ireland lagged well behind other countries when it comes to paid family leave.


“That’s why Congress has joined with trade unions across Europe to demand swift adoption of a new EU directive on work-life balance that would enhance women’s work opportunities through provision of better family-related leave and flexible working,” she said.


If adopted, the proposed directive would lead to the introduction of paid parental leave on a similar basis to maternity and paternity leave.


Congress equality officer David Joyce commented on the current barriers to Irish working families. “With up to 50% of workers in Ireland earning less than €34,000, and almost one in five classified as low paid, it is clear that many households will be unable to avail of unpaid parental leave,” he said.


The Fórsa contingent at the women’s conference included the union’s president Ann McGee, who spoke on the representation of women in public life. National secretary Billy Hannigan spoke on gender inequality in the finance sector. Margaret Coughlan spoke on the ICTU charter for housing rights, while official Geraldine O’Brien spoke on pension inequality.

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