Women politicians are to meet Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman after he warned that introducing maternity leave for TDs and Senators would have “practical implications”.
The Government previously said it would legislate for maternity leave for female Oireachtas members in the Work Life Balance Act 2023, which was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins last month. That law introduced medical care leave for parents of children under 12 and the right to request flexible working for parents and carers.
However, due to the “complexity” of the proposals around maternity leave for politicians, Mr O’Gorman decided to bring such measures forward in a standalone Bill.
In response to questions from Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Mr O’Gorman said “practical implications” needed to be considered before legislative proposals can be brought forward. This included how allowances for female politicians should be dealt with while on maternity leave.
In a briefing note to the Oireachtas Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, officials outlined the nature of these issues, which included questions around what to do with the allowances paid to female politicians who occupy positions such as party whip or committee chair.
“They are salaried allowances. However, they are only payable if the member continues to hold the position. If a member holding a specified position was replaced by another member, the allowance would no longer be payable.”
The caucus was also asked whether they believed a politician on maternity leave should be permitted to retain and return to positions such as committee chairs after their maternity leave.
The briefing also highlighted changes that will need to be made to the travel and accommodation allowance, which is given on a monthly basis based on a minimum attendance at Leinster House of 120 days.
“There is no provision to reconcile attendance for absences related to maternity. At present Members who have a baby present a certificate from their medical practitioner, however this is part of the issue the legislation will address.”
Chair of the Caucus, Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’Loughlin, said ad-hoc arrangements are still in place when it comes to maternity leave for politicians.
“It’s good that work has started on how we protect women and minorities in public life, however a bigger issue remains in how the Oireachtas supports parents to be in terms of maternity leave,” she said, adding that there “needs to be clear policy and legislation enacted to support present and future members of the Oireachtas”.
“The caucus is very clear on this, and have indicated their willingness to work with Minister O’Gorman and have requested a meeting with him to question the delay. As this mandate is nearing its end, it is imperative that the appropriate policy and legislation is in place for the next intake of TDs and Senators.”
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee plans to return from maternity leave this Friday.
Mr O’Gorman plans to meet with the caucus to discuss their concerns about the length of time it is taking to progress legislation to allow TDs and Senators take maternity leave.