Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017: From the Seanad
Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
I commend Deputy Shortall and her party, as well as the Minister of State and other Oireachtas Members who supported this legislation.
Deputy Shortall has described this Bill as making a modest difference. However, it will make a real and significant difference for many parents and families. Raising a child is one of the most important things anyone will ever do. It is an ambition for many and a treasured part of people’s lives. However, it is challenging in the context of a society increasingly focused on work. It is hard to raise a child when one is in full-time work or trying to get back into work. Schemes such as this are vitally important to support parents in raising a child. There is a need for much more, however. This legislation gives much increased flexibility which is required. We need to do more, however.
Deputy Michael McGrath alluded to summer camps. On Sunday in Cork there was a summer camps expo. While I am sure summer camps are valuable, it is an insight into people’s anxiousness and the difficulties of balancing and minding children during the summer holidays while working.
There are also many other challenges compared to other European jurisdictions. We have much more to do, not just with early years education but also wraparound childcare to facilitate people. It is a challenge for people when school finishes at 2.30 p.m. and there is no afterschool provision. That needs to be addressed. Valuable as this legislation is, many will not be able to avail of its provisions because they cannot afford to do so. That is not a criticism of Deputy Shortall’s Bill. Obviously, she could not bring forward legislation to increase parental benefit because it would be a charge on the Exchequer. However, it urgently needs to be addressed. Many who can afford to take parental leave will do so. However, many other parents will not be in a position to do so.
I agree there needs to be greater information. Many parents are not aware of the full benefits which exist. When mothers are returning to work after pregnancy, are we confident that every employer is treating them fairly? That is an issue which needs to be tackled, along with the need for wraparound childcare and increased investment in parental benefit.
As has been acknowledged, it is difficult to bring Private Members’ legislation through all Stages in the Dáil and Seanad. This is a significant achievement. Déanaim chomhghairdeas leis na Teachtaí i dtaobh an mhéid sin. Déanaim chomhghairdeas freisin leo siúd go léir a thacaigh leis an reachtaíocht seo, ina measc an tAire agus na hoifigigh sa Roinn.