Social Democrats co-leader Roisín Shortall is calling on the Government to “listen to parents” and support her Bill seeking to extend unpaid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks.
“It is in Jerry Buttimer’s hands, he can provide the time in the Seanad,” she told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.
The Bill has already passed through the Dáil, with all-party support. The Social Democrats were facilitated in the Seanad by Fianna Fáil senator Catherine Ardagh because the party does not have any Senators.
“At the Committee Stage the Government changed its mind,” claimed Ms Shortall.
“We want to give more flexibility to parents. The challenge is to keep people in the workforce. In the main, there is support for this from employers. It has the backing of ISME (Irish Small Medium Enterprises).”
The facility of unpaid leave of up to 18 weeks is already available in the public service. Ms Shortall wants to extend it to 26 weeks and to make it available to all parents of children up to 12 years.
She said that the Bill had gone through all stages and that the Justice Committee had decided that it did not require legislative scrutiny.
A suggestion that cost might be a factor was dismissed by Ms Shortall as “a red herring”. Costs would be minimal, she said, “essentially administrative rather than substantive costs.”
Ms Shortall said she had received calls from many struggling families and their plight was “an eye-opener”.
They are crying out for flexibility. The Government needs to listen to what parents are saying.
“The Bill just needs four hours in the Seanad. It could become law within a matter of a couple of months.”