Councillors may get paid maternity leave under new Bill

Fianna Fáil TD says the move is necessary to attract more women into local politics

Fianna Fáil’s Anne Rabbitte has moved a Bill to provide for 26 weeks’ paid maternity leave for councillors. Photograph: Katie Collins/PA Wire

Fianna Fáil’s Anne Rabbitte has moved a Bill to provide for 26 weeks’ paid maternity leave for councillors. Photograph: Katie Collins/PA Wire

 

Paid maternity leave may be introduced for local authority councillors under proposals being examined by the Government.

Currently councillors are paid a basic allowance of €16,645 per year and must attend 80 per cent of council and committee meetings to get expenses, which can bring their salary up to about €25,000.

Under section 18 of the 2001 Local Government Act, if a councillor is absent for more than six months they are deemed to have resigned their seat.

These issues frequently see women councillors attend council and committee meetings within weeks of giving birth.

Earlier this year, Dublin city councillor (People Before Profit) Hazel de Nóirtúin was back in the council chamber two weeks after the birth of her daughter Zara on April 25th.

“It was very hard. I was breastfeeding and had to move Zara on to bottles a few days before. I was pumping all day to leave her a feed, and trying to read [briefing documentation]. I was tired. In the meeting I was checking my phone to see if she was all right,” she said at the time.

Responsibility

Sinn Féin’s Janice Boylan and Claire Byrne of the Green Party, both Dublin city councillors, were also recently back fulfilling council duties within weeks of having babies.

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said the situation remained unchanged for the moment but would be reviewed. “Notwithstanding this existing position, and acknowledging the department’s responsibility under the ‘National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020’ to work for greater female representation in politics, the department will review existing supports available to councillors taking maternity leave.”

Among the proposals being examined is one put forward by Fianna Fáil. The party’s spokeswoman on children, Anne Rabbitte, has moved a Bill to provide for 26 weeks’ paid maternity leave, together with 16 additional, optional and unpaid weeks maternity leave.

Barriers

“A number of councillors have raised this issue over the past number of months, and unless this situation is addressed, we will be facing an increasingly difficult challenge in attracting more women into local politics,” the Galway East TD said.

The Bill took “clear action to get rid of one of the barriers to female participation” in politics, she said.

“It will enable councillors to take the same amount of paid leave that other employment sectors offer and removes the limbo which currently exists. The Bill is a democratic measure to make sure both men and women are heard in local decision-making processes.

“I hope other parties get behind my Bill and work with me to strengthen it over the coming months. It is a small step in the right direction, which will hopefully encourage more women into local politics by removing artificial obstacles which have been blocking their way.”