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Fianna Fáil TD calls on Government to back split paid maternity leave

The public is being asked to lobby the Government to support a plan that would allow parents to split paid maternity leave.

A Bill to give mothers the option of sharing maternity leave with their partners, if they so wish, passed through the second stage in the Dáil today, despite opposition from the Government.

Fianna Fail's Lisa Chambers

Fianna Fail's Lisa Chambers who put forward the Shared Maternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2018 said there has been significant interest in the proposals, especially from self-employed women. She said she is "shocked" by the Social Protection Minister who ruled out supporting the measures for a number of reasons but claimed there would be little demand among parents to share the current 26 weeks’ paid maternity leave.

Ms Chambers said there has been a significant public response following a Dáil debate on the issue last week and she is now calling on women and their partners to contact the Minister in a bid to change her view:

I got great interaction on Facebook from women, especially self-employed women. One particular woman, a barrister who had a baby 18 months ago contacted me, her partner is a teacher and he would have been delighted to have had the opportunity to share maternity leave. She found herself under severe pressure scrambling to get childcare because she had to return to work.

Ms Chambers said it is "really positive" that the Bill has passed after gaining widespread support from the opposition, but warned that Fine Gael may now seek to slow it down at Committee Stage: "The Bill had the support of Sinn Féin, the Green Party and number of Independents, so it has cross-party support apart from Fine Gael."

Her party colleague, Niamh Smyth, who took just two weeks away from the Dáil after giving birth to her daughter Juliet two years ago, said the Bill could make a real difference to families: "This really is taking a step in the right direction as it gives families a choice."

While the measure would be open to all parents, Ms Smyth said it would particularly benefit self-employed women, many of whom simply feel they cannot spend six months away from their business after the birth of a child: "When you are self-employed there is no-one to ring in sick to and you often can't afford to take six months off for maternity leave. You are the person heading up the business. It's a really tangible measure that can really benefit families."