Extension of Parent’s Leave must not exclude low-income families

8 December 2020

Ivana Bacik

Reacting to news that Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman TD has secured Cabinet approval for the extension of paid Parent’s Leave by three weeks, Labour Seanad group leader and Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Senator Ivana Bacik has said,

“I welcome today’s announcement from Minister O’Gorman that Cabinet has approved a proposal to extend paid Parent’s Leave and to enable male same-sex adopting couples to avail of adoptive leave. The inclusion of all parents who gave birth or adopted as long ago as the 1st November 2019 is appropriate, in recognition of the importance of a baby’s first year. It is vitally important that all new parents who were affected by the pandemic are covered by the scheme and I hope that the full seven weeks will be provided soon, rather than in three years’ time as is planned.

“While it is positive that this proposal is one step closer to being fully enacted, parents have anxiously awaited this news for months now and it is disappointing that the measure will not be implemented until April 2021.

“I understand that Minister O’Gorman is examining whether backdated payments can be made for parents who take the additional Parent’s Leave prior to the commencement of the new legislation in April. However, making these payments in arrears will render the scheme inaccessible to those many families across the country who cannot afford a temporary reduction in income.

“Most parents who are unable to afford to take unpaid leave and who gave birth earlier this year will have returned to work well in advance of the commencement date in April 2021. Theirs is a double loss as they will have to continue to pay for childcare to facilitate their return to work precisely because they do not have the funds to take time off without pay.

“The Minister has rightly said that enabling heterosexual couples to choose which parent will avail of the additional leave will help to dismantle regressive gender norms which place a disproportionate burden on women to provide childcare. However, affording additional early Parent’s Leave only to parents who can go without three weeks’ wages in early 2021 entrenches a different kind of inequality and this must be addressed, especially during this period where swathes of the population are without regular work.

“Last month, it was revealed to my Labour colleague, Seán Sherlock TD that there are a number of IT changes to be made in the Department of Social Protection before monies can be transferred to those availing of additional Parent’s Leave. I appreciate that this is a genuine obstacle to the commencement of payments, however, I am calling on the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration and the Minister for Social Protection to examine whether there is another means of payment available on a temporary basis, so as to avoid excluding new parents who live pay-check to pay-check.”

ENDS

QUESTION

* To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth when legislation will be published to extend parental leave from two to five weeks for parents of all children adopted or born on or after 1 November 2019.

- Sean Sherlock T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 17 November, 2020.

REPLY
To support parents of children born during the strict lock-down measures, the Government intends to extend parent's leave from two weeks to five weeks for each parent of all children born or adopted on or after 1 Nov 2019. The Government also intends to extend the period in which parent's leave can be taken up until that child turns two or, in the case of an adoption, two years after the adoption placement date of the child. This extension will apply to parents who may have already availed of their existing entitlements.

Heads of a Bill to effect these changes are currently being drafted in my Department and I hope to bring these to Government shortly.

The extension of parent's benefit is a matter for the Minister of Social Protection and I understand that it will take time for the relevant IT system changes to be made and that it will be April 2021 before the necessary updates can take place. However, it may be possible for parent's leave to be taken in advance of these changes and the benefit claimed retrospectively, once the legislation has been enacted, and I will ensure that parents are fully informed of their entitlements in this regard.

The extension to parent's leave and benefit follows a number of advancements in family leaves in recent years, including the introduction of parents leave and benefit in 2019 and the extension of unpaid parental leave to 26 weeks in September this year for a child under 12 years.