Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017: From the Seanad
I warmly congratulate Deputy Shortall and her colleagues in the Social Democrats for bringing forward this legislation, and indeed for persevering with it. Even though we have a minority Government, for an opposition Member to get a Bill through is incredibly difficult, and it requires some buy-in from the relevant line Minister and the support of the Civil Service, as well as some technical advice from the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Counsel. I congratulate the Deputy for sticking with it and getting this through.
Deputy Shortall said that it will make a modest difference. As she knows from the correspondence she receives, it will make a significant difference for many parents and families. The reality is that, at a very simple level, school holidays can be a nightmare for parents who are working full time. They end up paying out a great deal of money to put children into summer camps, which have a lot of value in their own right, in order to get through that period.
For those parents and co-operative employers, and many of them are, this is of real value. There will be challenges for some employers. I know issues were raised within the public sector. Those challenges can be worked out, however, as enacting this legislation will be for the greater good of society.
On the back of this, I hope a comprehensive information guide will be given out. From the interaction I have had with parents about this Bill and parental leave generally, I know many of them are not aware of how the system operates. For example, it is not widely known by parents who might be affected that the qualifying age for children with certain disabilities or long-term illnesses is already 16. I have seen questions asked online as to whether parental leave applies to both parents or if there is a separate individual entitlement for both parents to the full amount of leave. Again, we should not assume that everybody knows all these facts. Similarly, it is not widely known that one’s PRSI record will not be impacted adversely because PRSI credits are accrued when one is on parental leave. I hope that, through the Workplace Relations Commission, the Department and the Citizens Information website, proper information is provided regarding these changes, along with the overall operation of the parental leave regime. People who have not used their full entitlement for a child who is currently aged nine have inquired if they have to wait until September for the phasing in of the extra leave to claim the already unused period of leave. These are simple and straightforward questions which could make a real difference to the lives of many parents.
I again congratulate Deputy Shortall, her colleagues and all those who have played a role in ensuring this Bill will become law. It will make an important difference in the day-to-day lives of many families across the country. It is a sign that when politicians work together that we can achieve for the betterment of the people we serve.