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Bill to extend parental leave to six months introduced in Dáil.

The Social Democrats have today introduced a Bill to the Dáil which would extend unpaid parental leave to six months.

Under current rules, parents have an entitlement to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave. Under the Social Democrats proposed change to the law, the entitlement would be extended to 26 weeks.

Speaking as she introduced the Bill this afternoon, Róisín Shortall TD said:

“This Bill is good for children; good for parents and good for employers.

This Bill is primarily about achieving a better work-life balance. For working parents, there is a constant struggle to do the best they can for their children while holding down a job.

Increased parental time supports stronger bonds with children; improves female participation in the workforce; provides flexibility to parents, including around school holidays; and can reduce childcare costs. It can help employers by improving retention of key employees and reducing absenteeism.

Parents in Ireland have had to rely on EU rules rather than our own rules around parental leave rights, and previous Governments have gone for just above the minimum provided for in EU law.

This Bill seeks to bring us another step towards the EU norm. We are committed to extend paid parental leave, but are restricted, as an opposition party, by Dáil rules from doing so.”

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.

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.