Nunan calls for introduction of five days paid carers’ leave for workers in Budget 2020, in line with new EU Work-Life Balance Directive

21 May 2019

‘As Ireland’s population ages, paid carers’ leave would boost jobs and economy.

Sheila Nunan, Labour candidate in the Ireland South constituency in the European elections, has called on the Government to introduce five days of paid carers’ leave for all workers in Budget 2020 in order to give full effect to the new European Work-Life balance directive.

Ms Nunan said:

Other than a right to take (short-term) leave for urgent and unexpected family reasons (‘force majeure’) under the 2010 Parental Leave directive, there is currently no right under European law for workers to take leave to look after a sick child or elderly parent.

“However, under the new Work-Life balance directive that must be enacted into Irish law by 2022, all workers will be entitled to take five days carers’ leave a year.

“I firstly want to see the government enact this legislation well before 2022. There is no reason for example why all or parts of it (e.g. on carers’ leave) couldn’t be announced in Budget 2020.

“Secondly, the new directive leaves open the question of whether carers’ leave should be paid or not, but it does encourage governments to introduce a payment ‘at least equivalent to national sick pay’ to promote its effective take-up particularly by men.

“I want to see the government introduce paid carers’ leave, and paid at least at the level of maternity and paternity benefits, i.e. €245 a week. Why should a worker receive less when caring for an elderly parent than for a child? Europe first adopted legislation providing for parental leave in 1996. This left open the question of whether it should be paid or not. Unlike most other countries, Ireland didn’t provide for paid leave and it wasn’t until 2016, as a result of a Labour Party initiative, that Ireland introduced paid paternity leave. We don’t want another 20-year wait for paid carers’ leave’.

“The reality is that as our population ages, there will be more and more demands on workers to take time off work to care for elderly parents. There were five people of working age for every person aged 65 or older in Ireland in 2016. The EU estimates that Ireland will be at the European norm of two people of working age for every person aged 65 or older within a few decades.

“Introducing paid carers’ leave and giving workers more flexibility to balance their work and personal commitments would help keep people at work, thereby boosting growth. The European Commission estimates that giving full effect to the Work-Life Balance directive would raise employment levels, particularly female employment, and boost EU GDP by €13 billion each year.

Providing for paid carers’ leave would also be in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights that the Government signed up to in 2017. Principle 9 of the Pillar provides that:

‘Parents and people with caring responsibilities have the right to suitable leave, flexible working arrangements and access to care services. Women and men shall have equal access to special leaves of absence in order to fulfil their caring responsibilities and be encouraged to use them in a balanced way.’

 

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