Social Democrats Publish Bill to Extend Parental Leave to Six Months

March 30, 2017

The Social Democrats have published a Bill which would extend unpaid parental leave for parents from 18 weeks to 26 weeks.

Under current rules, parents have an entitlement to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave. This protects the employment rights of parents while allowing them spend more time with their children. Under this proposed new change to the law, the entitlement would be extended to 26 weeks.

Róisín Shortall TD said:

“This reform is about improving work-life balance.

Working parents lead very busy lives. They are under the constant pressure of doing the best they can for their children while also holding down a job.

Extending the number of weeks under parental leave would give parents the choice to take more time out if that is their wish. They can use it to cover mid-terms or school summer holidays or simply maximise time with their children in their first year.

It’s good for parents; it’s good for children; it’s good for employers; and it creates more job opportunities in the workforce.

Childcare is a key cost for parents with young children. In many cases, these costs can prove a huge barrier for women to return to the workforce. In some cases, women return simply to keep their job rather than gaining any extra income.

Extending parental leave gives parents the option of taking more time out while retaining the right to go back to their previous employment. More parents taking parental leave also reduces the wider demand for childcare which should help reduce cost pressures in the sector for everyone.”

The Bill is available here.

30th March 2017

Notes to Editors:
If passed, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill, 2017 would extend unpaid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks for all parents with children under 8 years.

If parents have already taken all of their parental leave, they will be allowed an extra 8 weeks under the Bill – once they still have a qualifying child.

Ireland’s laws on parental leave derive almost entirely from EU legislation. While we are allowed to go beyond these, Ireland has adopted a leave period just above the minimum number of weeks set down under EU law.

The Social Democrats are committed to the introduction of paid parental leave, and proposed such a move in our alternative Budget proposals in October 2016. Under Dáil rules, opposition parties are prevented from proposing Bills where there is a cost to the State. This is why we have focussed on unpaid parental leave in this Bill.

Ireland is well behind other countries when it comes to parental leave. Many countries allow parents three sets of leave, maternity, parental, and childcare/carers. According to the European Commission, the average duration of parental leave among Member States is 86.9 weeks. This reform would bring Ireland closer to the European norm.