Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
339. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if he will address the request by women to have maternity leave legislation extended for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10836/20]
388. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if a temporary extension of maternity benefit from six to nine months for mothers whose maternity benefit claim expires between the start of March and end of September 2020 can be provided. [11391/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 339 and 388 together.
As the law now stands, a mother is entitled to this leave irrespective of the duration of her current employment. The mother can take maternity leave from casual or part-time employment. She can take up to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, and up to a further 16 weeks of unpaid leave. Two weeks must be taken before the baby is due, and at least four weeks must be taken after the birth. As Minister of State for Justice and Equality, the legislation that governs the provision of maternity leave is my responsibility and any such amendment would likely require primary legislation. The provision of maternity benefit is under the remit of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These matters are currently being examined by Government.
As you will be aware, on 29 May the Minister for Finance announced changes to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme to accommodate the salaries of parents returning from maternity or adoptive leave. The changes are aimed at individuals who may not have been on the payroll of their employer on 29 February, or been paid in either January or February 2020 and will allow for consistent treatment with other employees.
The amendment will be legislated for later in the year as part of the usual Finance Bill 2020 process, but in the interim Revenue has agreed to provide a facility to accommodate such cases. Although expected to be implemented on 12 June, Revenue launched a new process on Monday 8 June which allows employers to include employees returning to employment after a period of paternity, parental or related unpaid leave or were in receipt of Health and Safety Benefit, Parent’s Benefit or Illness Benefit paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). Employers who wish to access the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme on behalf of eligible employees covered by these changes can do so by completing a short form available for download via MyEnquiriesin Revenue’s Online Service (ROS). The relevant details that employers will need to provide to Revenue include current contractual gross pay, pay frequency, normal PRSI class, type of leave the returning employee availed of and the date of return to work. Any retrospective subsidy payments due to impacted employees will be processed by Revenue in due course. This retrospection will apply from 26 March 2020, the date of return to employment or the date the employer was registered for the scheme, whichever is the latest.
I am conscious of demands on parents at this time and hope that the additional measures to support working parents that I have introduced in recent years, including the new parent’s leave scheme and an extension of parental leave, are helping to ease some of these demands. In addition to maternity leave, each parent may also avail of two weeks of parent’s leave during the first year of a child’s life and may qualify for parent’s benefit during this period. Parental leave is also available which entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children. Parents can take up to 22 weeks of parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday.