Plans to extend parental leave feared costly for small businesses

Plans to provide additional parental leave for parents of babies born since November last year could prove costly for small businesses, according to a leading expert.

An extra three weeks is proposed but will not come into force until after the Budget in October.

John Barry, HR and Employment Law Consultant, says when combined with existing entitlements, it is an added cost for business: “While it’s understandable we need to be giving time to mothers for time off, it is getting quite onerous for small businesses to actually manage all this time off for every child that’s in a family, and that is the problem.”

The plan was announced by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman on Monday evening, described in part as a move to support new parents in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The support will be paid at a rate of €245 per week.

Opposition parties have criticised the proposal, with Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald saying it was not enough in a time of “incredible complications and pressures.”

"They have been left without all of the normal supports that, as I recall when I was a new parent, relied on," she said of new parents.

The National Women’s Council (NWC) also said the proposal doesn’t go far enough in meeting the needs of new parents in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Orla O’Connor from the NWC described the move as “utterly separate in terms of what the woman have been looking for".

"Their access to things like medical appointments and health check-ups for themselves and their babies were all gone."