Coalition urged to scrap lenders’ childcare power

The Government is under pressure to scrap the provision in the personal insolvency guidelines that lets banks ask people to quit their jobs in mortgage writedown deals.

Reassurances by the Taoiseach that nobody would be forced to give up work do not go far enough, according to the National Women’s Council, which said there was "huge anxiety among families".

It followed a day of confusion after Enda Kenny told the Dáil that the guidelines "will not have a condition that anybody — man or woman — be required to give up a position".

However, he could not confirm that the Government would remove the specific provision from the guidelines, which will not be published until after Easter.

The guidelines outlining the income limits and living standards considered reasonable for a person seeking to renegotiate mortgages state: "Where a person is working and paying for childcare as a consequence of his or her employment, the cost of childcare should not exceed the income from the employment."

The issue caused a storm after Transport Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed to the Irish Examiner yesterday that childcare costs would be included in the guidelines.

The rule was described by the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, as "anti-women, anti-family, and anti-employment".

During leaders’ questions in the Dáil, Mr Martin asked: "Will the Taoiseach confirm people who earn less than their childcare costs will not be forced to give up their jobs, and that what is proposed in the draft guidelines will not be included in the guidelines?"

The Taoiseach responded: "I do so confirm." Asked to clarify, a spokesperson said he was confirming that people would not be forced to give up their jobs, but he would not comment on the guidelines because they were not yet published.

Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council said the Taoiseach "needs to be more explicit".

"While the Taoiseach can make those remarks, how the guideline can be applied is very unclear, that is why it should be taken out," said Ms O’Connor.