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– Government needs to ramp up investment for paid parental leave and streamline legislation to make it family-friendly, says Jennifer Whitmore TD

Speaking on the Family Leave Bill in the Dáil today, Social Democrats spokesperson for Children, Jennifer Whitmore, said:

“While I welcome the extension of paid parental leave to five weeks, the Government needs to ramp up investment in this area as Ireland still falls far short of its European counterparts. Parents are desperate for much-needed certainty, particularly as Covid has meant many of them taking early parental leave to cover the gaps in childcare.

“There is an urgent need to implement in full the EU Directive relating to parental leave and work-life balance and to streamline legislation, which is currently too cumbersome for families to navigate. Between maternity, paternity and parental leave, there are numerous variations, which is causing a lot of unnecessary confusion as to what parents are really entitled to and when.

“The reality is that there is still a 130-week gap between the end of all parental leave and the start of ECCE early education in this country. Families end up having to pay more in high-cost childcare as a result. Women in particular are disproportionately affected by shortfalls in parental leave legislation and as a result continue to be underrepresented in the workforce and face a widening gender pay gap.

“Lone parents have also been overlooked in this legislation. The Government had an opportunity to address the high rate of lone parents experiencing poverty by extending paid parental leave for them and increasing the payment.

“Overall, the aim should be full and unfettered supports for families, including working families who have been struggling to manage the competing demands of family life. I have submitted amendments to this Bill to ensure the Minister will report on the progress of further paid parental leave, consider increasing payments to lone parents and streamline all legislation to make it simple and manageable for parents.

“Today’s Bill is a step in the right direction, but we still have some distance left to travel before parents in Ireland enjoy the same rights as their European neighbours.”

March 24, 2021

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