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Press Release, 24/09/2014: Ireland lagging behind Europe on Family Leave, says international expert

Families and WorkDublin Wed 24th Sept – Ireland is lagging behind Europe on Family Leave and compares poorly to other European countries on issues such as maternity leave, paternity leave and work life balance policies. That’s according to an international expert who is speaking on Family Leave in Dublin for the first time today [Thu 25th Sept]. 

Professor Peter Moss from the University of London is here to address a seminar organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and Start Strong – a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland.

The event is being organised ahead of the Family Leave Bill, which is due to be published here this autumn.


Ms Ciairín de Buis, Director of Start Strong says ““While the duration of Maternity Benefit has improved in the last 15 years, when we look at Ireland’s leave policies as a whole, they offer little support to families with young children and compare poorly to other European countries”.

Ireland currently offers 26 weeks maternity leave paid at a low flat rate, with an additional 16 weeks of unpaid leave also available. It doesn’t give any Paternity leave. Family leave - the right to take time off when children are young, with full job protection – is unpaid and gives only the minimum amount allowed under EU law.

“There is currently no legal entitlement to paternity leave in Ireland.” says Ms de Buis. “Many European countries offer 2 weeks paid paternity leave around the time of birth, allowing partners much needed time to bond with the new baby and give support to the mother”.

Family life

Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland says, “Ireland is the only EU member state that provides no period of well-paid leave. Our current policies are based on the notion that women are still primarily responsible for the care of young children.”

“The reconciliation of work and family life is central to promoting greater equality in society. The forthcoming Family Leave Bill should ensure greater sharing of care responsibilities between women and men.

“As it stands, women do the majority of care work and subsequently, the majority of those in part time, precarious work are women. This has a massive impact on women’s economic independence, with 50% of women earning less than €20,000 a year.”


David Joyce, Equality Officer with the ICTU says, “Working families have been under serious pressure as a result of the economic crisis, made all the worse by the lack of workplace arrangements to help reconcile work and family life. Research shows that workers (both women and men) who experience such a conflict have a significantly lower quality of life; have a higher risk of sleeping and health problems; are more likely to be absent; are less motivated and productive at work. 

“It is in the common interest of workers and the companies that employ them to ensure a good climate for reconciling caring and work responsibilities. The Family Leave Bill provides an opportunity to improve statutory entitlements in this area and to begin to bring ourselves in line with European norms.”

More information on the seminar is available at


Presentations and coverage

Peter Moss, Chair of International Network on Leave Policies and Research (INLPR), read his OP ED for Irish Times here; and presentation here.

Remarks by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald at the seminar here.

Irish Examiner: Ireland lags behind EU on Family Leave here.

"Paid paternity leave added to draft law", Mary Regan, Irish Examiner here.

Discussion on Today Fm's Last Word here.

Minister backs paid leave for Fathers, Irish Times

Notes to editor

• The seminar “Families and Work – A Chance for Change” will take place on Thursday September 25th from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm at European Parliament building, 43 Molesworth St, Dublin 2. It is being organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Start Strong - a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland.

• Keynote speakers included the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD and Peter Moss, Emeritus Professor of Early Childhood Provision, Institute of Education, University of London. The full programme can be viewed at #FamilyLeave

• The Government has committed to publishing a Family Leave Bill this autumn. The Bill offers a change for change in how Government policies can help families to balance work and family life.

• European countries that offer 2 or more weeks of statutory paid paternity leave include: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Current policy in Ireland:

  • As the only paid leave is Maternity Benefit, a large proportion of mothers in Ireland return to work when their child is 6 months old – much sooner than the 12 months recommended by UNICEF.
  • Mothers are only entitled to take breaks at work to breastfeed until a child is 6 months old, which is of no value when Maternity Leave lasts 6 months.
  • There is no legal entitlement to paternity leave in Ireland.
  • Parental leave is unpaid, making it unaffordable for most families.
  • Since 2013 there has been a limited right to request flexible work (for those returning from parental leave), but it is so constrained as to be meaningless for most employees