I propose to take Questions Nos. 408 to 413, inclusive, 415 to 418, inclusive, 421, 423, 425, 426 and 445 together.
I am conscious of demands on parents at this time and hope that the additional measures to support working parents that I have introduced in recent years, including the new parent’s leave scheme and an extension of parental leave, are helping to ease some of these demands. These matters are being examined by Government.
As the law now stands, a mother is entitled to this leave irrespective of the duration of her current employment. The mother can take maternity leave from casual or part-time employment. She can take up to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, and up to a further 16 weeks of unpaid leave. Two weeks must be taken before the baby is due, and at least four weeks must be taken after the birth. As Minister of State for Justice and Equality, the legislation that governs the provision of maternity leave is my responsibility. The provision of maternity benefit is under the remit of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
In addition to maternity leave, each parent may also avail of two weeks of parent’s leave during the first year of a child’s life and may qualify for parent’s benefit during this period.
Parental leave is also available which entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children. Parents can take up to 22 weeks of parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday.