Minister O’Gorman’s plan to allow women undergoing cancer treatment to delay their maternity leave welcomed by the Irish Cancer Society

The two-year ‘Leave Our Leave’ campaign sought legislative change to help women diagnosed with cancer while pregnant or on maternity leave

by Alison O'Hanlon
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The Irish Cancer Society has welcomed Minster Roderic O’Gorman’s announcement at the Green Party convention that he will legislate to enable women with cancer to defer their maternity leave until their treatment ends. The need for change was highlighted by the Irish Cancer Society’s ‘Leave Over Leave’ campaign. 

Averil Power, CEO at the Irish Cancer Society responded to the announcement by saying: “Every week, a woman somewhere in Ireland is diagnosed with cancer while pregnant or with a young baby. As a result, they are separated from their little ones while in hospital and are often too sick to care for them when they are at home. Right now, they cannot defer their maternity leave until their treatment ends. So when their maternity leave runs out, they go back to work and never get back the vital bonding time they missed when they were sick. 

“The Irish Cancer Society’s ‘Leave Our Leave’ campaign highlighted the distressing impact this is having on women and their babies. Having met Minister O’Gorman a few months ago to discuss our campaign, I am delighted to hear he plans to bring a bill to Cabinet before Christmas to enable women undergoing treatment for serious illness to postpone maternity leave until their treatment ends. We commend the Minister for prioritizing this area; it will make a huge difference to women and their babies.” 

While men can defer paternity leave if they get sick, women do not have the same right at present. The Maternity Protection Act 2004 stipulates that anyone who is diagnosed with cancer or any other serious illness during pregnancy must use their maternity leave to cover their treatment. Maternity leave can only be postponed where the child is hospitalised. 

Averil concluded, “I’d also like to thank the many women and their families who have supported the ‘Leave Our Leave’ campaign, especially Erica Tierney, Mary Canavan and Emma McGuinness. By bravely sharing their stories, they have highlighted how awful it is to go through cancer while pregnant or with a young baby and how cruel it is to be unable to postpone your maternity leave until you are better. Thanks to them, when this change is implemented, other women will be spared that heartbreak.” 

Photographer Paul Sherwood

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