Written Answers. - Parental Leave.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

850 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce paid parental leave; and the numbers who have qualified for parental leave since the introduction of the scheme. [20513/00]

There are no plans at present to introduce paid parental leave. However, the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness provides that my Department will, in 2001, conduct a review of the operation of the Parental Leave Act, 1998, in consultation with the social partners. This commitment is in accordance with section 28 of the Act, which provides for a review of the operation of the Act within not less than two years and not more than three years of its commencement on 3 December 1998. This review will provide an opportunity to assess provisions of the Act in the light of its operation.

With regard to the numbers who have qualified for parental leave, the position is that the Parental Leave Act, 1998, which implements the Parental Leave Directive (96/34/EC), provides an individual and 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. The Act was amended by the European Communities (Parental Leave) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 231 of 2000), with effect from 19 July 2000. The effect of the amendment is to provide an entitlement to 14 weeks unpaid parental leave to parents of children born between 3 December 1993 and 2 June 1996 or children born on or after 3 December 1993 and in whose case an adoption order was made between 3 December 1993 and 2 June 1996; this leave must be taken not later than 31 December 2001. Generally an employee must have one year's continuous service with the employer before she or he is entitled to take parental leave. However, where the child is approaching the age threshold and the employee has more than three months' but less than one year's continuous service with the employer, she or he is entitled topro rata parental leave. In such a case the employee is entitled to one week's leave for every month of continuous employment completed with the employer when the leave begins.
There are no statistics available centrally in relation to the uptake of parental leave. Individual employers are, however, required, under section 27 of the Parental Leave Act, 1998 to keep records of parental leave taken by their employees.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

851 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the members of the interdepartmental review group on maternity leave; the number of meetings held; and when the report will be published. [20535/00]

The following organisations, Departments and agencies are represented on the working group for the review of the Maternity Protection Act, 1994:

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Department of Finance

Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Department of Health and Children – represented by Health Services' Employers' Agency –

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Irish Business and Employers Confederation

National Women's Council of Ireland – Community & Voluntary Pillar.

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association – Farming Pillar.

Health and Safety Authority

Equality Authority

There have been eight meetings of the group to date as follows:

14 April 2000

5 May 2000

22 May 2000

19 June 2000

7 July 2000

4 September 2000

15 September 2000

21 September 2000

A further meeting is scheduled for 13 October.

The secretariat is currently working on a draft of the report for consideration by the group. It is hoped to finalise the work of the group shortly after the meeting of 13 October. The report will be submitted to Government and publication will be considered after that date.