Low maternity benefits ‘a disgrace’

MATERNITY pay and leave in Ireland is among the worst in Europe, according to a new report.

The findings of the study of 60 countries show the Government is paying “lip service” to the needs of mothers and children, the National Women’s Council said.

Irish mums have the fourth lowest level of statutory maternity pay at €4,183. It trails the benefit provided by countries such as Poland, China, Brazil and Mexico.

The most generous maternity package in the world is provided by Norway at €12,500 with 42 weeks leave. Maternity entitlements in Denmark, Italy and Sweden are all around €10,000.

There are also vast differences in the amount of statutory maternity leave across Europe.

Sweden offers the most leave at 96 weeks, while women in Denmark, Italy and Finland are entitled to up to 50, 47 and 44 weeks leave respectively. In contrast, German women are only entitled to 14 weeks leave and in Ireland, the provision is for 18 weeks.

“Lip-service is paid to the importance of children in Ireland, to the special role of motherhood and fathers’ rights, but this survey shows successive Governments have failed the parents of Ireland,” said chairperson of the National Women’s Council of Ireland Gráinne Healy.

“It is a disgrace that Ireland has more in common with countries in the southern part of the world.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs defended the Government’s record on providing for mothers and children.

“Children have always been a priority for the Government and huge improvement have been made in social welfare payments, particularly child benefit.

“A recent review of maternity entitlements recommended increasing the length of paid leave from 14 to 18 weeks and unpaid leave from four to eight. Both of these measures have been implemented,” the spokesperson said.

The worldwide study by Mercer Human Resource Consulting is based on statutory pay built up over six months of leave.

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