Galway TD Claire Kerrane has accused the government of “failing families under pressure” for the lengthy delays in the introduction of additional parental leave.
In Budget 2021 it was announced that parents of children up to two years old will be able to claim five weeks of paid parental leave, up from two weeks previously.
While parent’s will be able to claim their leave as soon as legislation is passed to enable it, they will not actually be paid for it until approximately April of 2021.
At a meeting of the Select Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands last week, Minister Heather Humphreys said that a number of changes have to be made to the department’s IT systems to enable the payment.
Currently staff at the department are “prioritising” work on delivering the pandemic unemployment payments, and the christmas bonus is also being expanded, which also requires changes to the social welfare IT systems the
“It is expected that the system changes in respect of parent’s benefit will be in place at the end of March 2021. We will make the payment for the leave that was taken.”
“Once the legislation goes through, the parents can take the leave and they will get the payment as soon as we get it processed and the IT systems updated.”
“It will be backdated so parents can take the leave in January. They may not get the money until a month or two later but they will definitely get the money and it will be backdated.”
Deputy Kerrane, who is the Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection, said, “such vagueness is wholly inappropriate for a policy of this importance for families across the country.”
Dur to the effect that COVID-19 has had on the childcare sector, with reduced capacity at businesses that have reopened, new parents are left in the position where they may have to return to work, but cannot access childcare Kerrane said.
“This ongoing poor handling of this issue is causing huge anger and confusion for parents who are trying to make decisions about caring for their new baby and some being left with no option but to take unpaid leave, leaving them under financial strain. ”
“I am once again urging the Government to take this issue seriously and give families the clarity they need. Parents are under huge pressure and they need support and clarity now, not vague promises and unnecessary delays.”