Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017: From the Seanad
In 1984, one of the Ceann Comhairle’s county men, Charles Handy, wrote The Future of Work, a book with which I am sure he is familiar. He envisaged that, as technology advanced, all of us would have an easier and better time and would not work as hard. Unfortunately, we are all taking work home in our pockets, namely, with our smartphones. We have all heard stories about people answering emails at 2 o'clock in the morning. Work never stops. Politicians may do that a lot. I know I do a fair bit of it.
Deputy Shortall spoke about work-life balance, which is important, and there is an EU directive on this. This Bill is an example of new politics working. Any legislation which comes before the House needs to be analysed and improved where possible. We did this with this legislation. I congratulate Deputy Shortall for her work on and tenacity with this Bill, as well as making the case for it strongly, respectfully and conscientiously.
The Government has always been anxious to support families, parents and children. Members referred to paid parental leave. That is currently with the committee and we are waiting for the pre-legislative scrutiny to be completed. When that is finished, we will publish the legislation. I would like to get at it before the summer recess to ensure parents can get paid to take parental leave for two weeks from November.
The Government also has a responsibility to ensure legislation is constitutional and must take advice from the Attorney General's office on that. I am happy we improved the Bill as it went through. There were several technical issues which we spotted and which we worked out with the co-operation of Deputy Shortall and her colleagues.
This has been one of the fastest Bills through this Stage, with no debate on any of the amendments. That in itself shows how much work has been done in this House and in the Seanad. I commend all Senators and Deputies involved.
We have to be cognisant of the impact of this legislation on business, particularly small businesses with three or four employees, to ensure they can carry on. If employees are happy and can take a day off a week, it cuts down on childcare costs and ensures they will stay in their jobs rather than giving them up. I am anxious to encourage women to stay in work. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill will be dealt with later and we have the better balance initiative to ensure more women are on State and company boards. It is important we have women involved in decision-making at the highest level and that we tackle the gender pay gap.
We will not delay the Bill’s commencement. My officials and the Office of the Attorney General are preparing a commencement order for signature after enactment. The Minister for Justice and Equality will sign the order on 19 July to allow the legislation to come into effect six weeks before the date which the entitlement to leave comes into force. It is intended that the commencement order will enable the entitlement to additional leave to come into effect from 1 September 2019. Otherwise, there is a risk that it could be three months after that. That is why we amended this.
I thank all Members for their co-operation and their work on this legislation. I look forward to seeing it in action.