Labour demands inclusion of early miscarriage leave in Work Life Balance Bill

Ivana Bacik TD
02 November 2022
  • Labour amendments would provide 20 days leave for early miscarriage and 10 days for fertility treatments

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said employers must recognise the need for time off work after early miscarriage. Calling for the inclusion of Labour amendments to provide 20 days paid time off work in the event of an early miscarriage in Government’s forthcoming Work Life Balance Bill, Deputy Bacik said employment legislation must address some legacy structural inequalities that remain.

Deputy Bacik said:

“Labour is calling on Government to include reproductive health rights within its Work Life Balance Bill. Our amendments would give women workers up to 20 days for paid time off if they experience an early miscarriage, and up to 10 days leave for any employee to take time off work for reproductive health reasons including IVF. It’s a measure that would advance women’s employment rights, address the structural gender equality issues in the workplace, and also embed a more compassionate approach to miscarriage and other experiences.

“In Ireland, around 14,000 women will experience a miscarriage each year, and around one in six couples will experience fertility issues. We need to provide leave to people when they need it most.

“Early miscarriage remains somewhat shrouded in silence. Despite trojan efforts of campaigners like Síle Seoige on this issue, many women still feel unsupported in the workplace after such an experience. Many try to find the balance between wanting privacy but needing flexibility and compassion from the workplace. By legislating for early miscarriage and reproductive health leave, it is our hope that women will feel empowered to seek necessary time off without fear or shame.

“We in Labour first introduced the Organisation of Working Time Act (Reproductive Health Leave) Bill in March 2021, yet despite not opposing the bill in the Seanad, the government continues to drag its heels on this. Since the introduction of this bill, our offices have been inundated with contact from women and couples telling us how helpful this leave would have been to them when they needed a compassionate approach from their workplace.

“In sharing their stories, too often women report returning to work immediately without any support from their employer. Others say that in the immediate days that follow a pregnancy loss, the routine offered by the workplace can be welcome by some but it is when the physical pain ends that the grief can become overwhelming. If we are to end the silence around fertility issues, we need to start with the workplace and continue to follow the path of New Zealand by introducing reproductive leave here.

“The introduction of publicly funded IVF in this year’s Budget is hugely welcome and will be one step to addressing the financial barrier that faces people in making decisions around family planning. But as well as money, many women and men have invested time, hopes and dreams in IVF treatment, while taking unpaid leave for extensive medical appointments and related treatments. Our amendments would entitle any worker who needs it to up to 10 days leave for these appointments.

“Many employers are already introducing workplace policies to support women who experience early miscarriage. Labour is calling on Government to introduce specific time off in such circumstances, and by doing so, we hope it will encourage greater public awareness of this  issue which is being endured by so many in silence.”

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