In an opinion piece, Minister Shane Ross discusses why the passing of the Parental Leave bill is great news for younger families.

“Over the years, from Stillorgan to Stepaside, Dundrum to Ballinteer, many young couples struggling with children, work and childcare have discussed the subject of Parental Leave with me. We need more, is what they said.

For example, speaking to some families in Stepaside I heard concerns from working parents with 2 children who have taken 1 day parental leave per week since returning to work in 2013 whose parental leave entitlements are about to end.

I encountered further concerns in the Clonskeagh area, where one young mother explained how she is currently working four days a week and struggling to pay a child minder and  run a household as well as hold down a full time professional career.

Many young mothers in my constituency have stressed how they have invested many years to achieve their professional careers yet they still want to be able to spend time with their children and be able to collect them from school at least one day a week like all the other moms do and to be there to help with homework.

Currently parents in Ireland can only take a total of 18 weeks of leave and only until their child is eight years old. Under the new Bill however, parents will be able to take up to six months leave for children up to the time they are twelve years old.

Paid Parental benefit during a child’s first year is also being increased and parents who have already availed of their 18 weeks will be entitled to the extra eight.

This is a hugely important Bill which will go some way to enhancing the quality of life for young families and one I am very happy to support.

Young families – be they headed by one or two parents- face innumerable challenges in today’s society. These challenges are not purely financial, but also consist of a tightrope balance between working enough to cover the bills and spending much needed quality time with family and young children.

It is the State’s responsibility to support families – no matter what shape or form they come in and this is a welcome step in acknowledging that culture and circumstances have changed and most families cannot afford, or wish, to have one parent stay at home full time without at some stage returning to the workplace.

Of course, we also need to support employers, particularly those in small businesses. That’s why the Bill will be phased in. Next September a further four weeks will be added to the current 18, and then in 2020 another four. This is so that employers will have sufficient time to prepare for the changes.

I hope that as many parents as possible will avail of these changes, and I can assure you that I will continue to support a better life/work balance for families everywhere.”