Taoiseach will consider calls to extend maternity leave due to pandemic

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government will “do the right thing” over calls to extend maternity leave for mothers whose babies were born during the pandemic.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called for a 12-week extension to maternity leave and pay, but Mr Martin said the issue would not be simple to resolve.

He said the matter was being considered by the departments of Justice, Social Protection and Public Expenditure, but the retrospective nature of what is being asked for may present legal difficulties.

“It is our intention to do the right thing but to do it in a considered way. It is not as simple as the deputy has outlined and there are complexities in relation to it, from a legal and a policy standpoint.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin/PA)</figcaption>
Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin/PA)

“The estimated costs are about €78m and it would affect about 24,000 women.

“This matter is being examined by Government and there is consultation between the Minister for Social Protection and Minister for Justice. I want to point out that the retrospective nature of what is being proposed may create legal and policy difficulties.”

Mr Martin said he did not want to give a simple response “to sound popular” as it is a complex matter.

“For example, some of the women who have exhausted their maternity benefit are now back at work or on the pandemic unemployment payment.

“I spoke to ministers yesterday, they are engaged in consultations on this issue and I can say it is our intention to come back with a considered response on the issue.”