Speech on Order of Business: Maternity Leave, St. Patrick's Day, Paid Leave for IVF and Early Miscarriage
12 March 2021
Guím beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig ar na Seanadóirí go léir. Gabhaim buíochas as an nGaeilge agus as na seamróga. Happy St. Patrick's Day to all. I also wish colleagues a happy International Women's Week, given the week that is in it. I thank the Leader for hosting Monday's debate on International Women's Day. On that day I spoke about women's representation and the need to ensure we do not perpetuate obstacles to women's representation. In that vein I welcome the news that the Minister for Justice, Deputy Helen McEntee, will be able to take maternity leave. Clearly in the Constitution there is provision for us to legislate to provide for maternity leave. We do not need a constitutional amendment. The Constitution should not be seen as an obstacle to enabling women's participation in politics. It is Article 28.12 of the Constitution. That is very clear.
Further obstacles lie in all sorts of other issues. To address some of these, the Labour Party and I have brought forward a reproductive health-related leave Bill that we look forward to introducing in the Seanad on 22 March. I will be asking for Government support for this to provide for a short period of paid leave for those employees, both women and men but predominantly women, who must avail of time off work for IVF or other reproductive health-related reasons, or for women who suffer early miscarriage, for which there is no specific statutory provision yet. I have worked with the INTO and with Councillor Alison Gilliland on this over a couple of years. It is long overdue. The lack of any specific recognition of reproductive health matters is another barrier to women's participation in the workplace and we need to see legislation on this.