Without paid miscarriage leave women will remain disadvantaged in the workplace

07 March 2023
  • Labour urges Government to support passage of Labour’s Reproductive Health Leave Bill
  • A Living Income needed to combat scourge of low pay for women

In advance of International Women’s Day tomorrow (Wednesday, March 8th), Labour workers’ rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock has called on the Government to support Labour’s bill to provide up to 20 days paid leave for women who experience early miscarriage and 10 days leave for fertility treatment.

Senator Sherlock said that as we celebrate women, we must continue to advance their position in the workplace and society and ensure women have access to leave when it matters most.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Tomorrow, we celebrate the progress that has been made by women in Ireland but just as importantly we must reflect on the enormous challenges women in this country face. Firstly, we have the intolerable position of thousands of women workers trapped in low pay employment, the women who’ve had to cut back their hours of work or leave their jobs because the State has failed to ensure adequate supply of childcare places. We also have tens of thousands of mothers of young children in rental accommodation living the nightmare of the country’s housing shortage and facing shocking delays in access to healthcare.

“While double digit pay increases will not immediately solve the housing affordability crisis or the lack of childcare, it is vital that the Government makes good its commitment towards a living income. A living income from work is the basic first step towards a woman’s dignity in the workplace. The reality for many women is a fundamental lack of proper support from employers when facing difficult and sensitive issues around fertility and reproductive health. To address this, Labour published a bill on International Women’s Day 2021 to provide up to 20 days paid leave for women who experience early miscarriage, and up to 10 days for any worker undergoing fertility treatment. We need to see this done.

“Reproductive health is a deeply personal issue. In Ireland, around 14,000 women will experience a miscarriage each year, and around one in six couples will experience fertility issues. Since Labour first published this Bill, we have been deeply moved by the testimony sent by people across Ireland. We need to provide leave to women when they need it most and ensure that our workplaces take account of our lived experiences as women.

“For far too long, women have had to remain silent in their workplaces about the grief of early miscarriage; or have had to use their annual leave to attend appointments for IVF treatments. We need to provide women – and men – with support in the workplace, where they are struggling with fertility or other reproductive health issues. Our hopes and dreams for our family do not exist outside of the hours of 9 to 5. They are always with us. This needs to be acknowledged in how we approach helping people in the workplace when they need it most.

“Aside from the workplace protections that this bill would introduce, it would also represent a meaningful step towards opening conversations around reproductive health in Ireland and would help to encourage public awareness of reproductive health issues. Tomorrow, we will hear plenty of platitudes when it comes to women in Ireland and women in the workplace. With the flick of a pen, the Government can address the clear and obvious inequalities in our workplaces and provide early miscarriage leave. We can provide support when it matters most at home through the speedy passage of Labour’s Organisation of Working Time (Reproductive Health Related Leave) Bill 2021.”

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