Dáil Éireann - Volume 514 - 10 February, 2000

Written Answers. - Maternity Leave.

[511] 122. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position with current regulations and level of maternity leave; the consideration, if any, being given to extending maternity leave; the situation in other EU countries; the expert advice which exists on the need for a woman to take 12 to 18 months off to develop intimacy with her child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3878/00]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The Maternity Protection Act 1994, which implements the employment rights provisions of the EU pregnant workers' directive (92/85/EEC), provides that all female employees who have notified their employer of their condition are entitled to 14 consecutive weeks' maternity leave plus four weeks' unpaid additional maternity leave. The Act also provides an entitlement to time off work for ante-natal and post-natal medical appointments and to health and safety leave in certain circumstances.

In addition to maternity leave, the Parental Leave Act 1998, provides an individual non-transferrable entitlement to both parents to 14 weeks unpaid leave from work to take care of young children. The leave must be taken before the child reaches five years of age, except in certain circumstances in the case of an adopted child. The entitlement applies to parents of children born or adopted on or after 3 June 1996.

In view of the different conditions which apply to the taking of maternity leave in EU member states, it is difficult to make comparisons. However, the position regarding the length of paid maternity leave to which there is entitlement in EU member states, based on a 1998 publication of the European Commission, is set out in the following table.

A review of the Maternity Protection Act 1994, is being undertaken by my Department, in accordance with the Government's An Action Programme for the Millennium, which provides that key priorities regarding women's rights will include the review and improvement of maternity protection legislation. It is intended to complete this review by September 2000.

Paid Maternity Leave Provisions in EU Member States

Country

Provisions

Austria

16 Weeks

Belgium

15 Weeks

Denmark

18 Weeks

Finland

105 Days

France

16 Weeks

26 Weeks for 3rd and subsequent children

34-46 Weeks in the event of multiple births

[512] Country

Provisions

Germany

14 Weeks

Greece

16 Weeks

Ireland

14 Weeks

Italy

5 Months

Luxembourg

16-20 Weeks

The Netherlands

16 Weeks

Portugal

98 Days

Spain

16 Weeks

Sweden

14 Weeks

UK

18 Weeks