Seanad to debate miscarriage and fertility leave

Senator Marie Sherlock
27 November 2023
  • Labour Bill would provide up to 20 days paid leave for early pregnancy loss and up to 10 days for fertility treatments
  • Seanad debate to be held Wednesday at 4:30pm
  • INTO and National Women’s Council of Ireland to join Labour public meeting this evening at 8pm

Labour workers rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock has urged all Seanad members to vote to introduce paid time off work for early miscarriage and fertility treatments.

Labour’s Bill will be debated during Government time on Wednesday 29th November at 4:30pm.

Senator Sherlock said:

“On Wednesday the Seanad will debate Labour’s legislation to introduce reproductive health leave rights in this country. At the heart of the Labour Party Bill is a demand for flexibility and the right to be accommodated when going through an early miscarriage or fertility treatment.

“Ultimately this leave is about creating more compassionate workplaces and affording dignity and empathy to all going through this often very lonely experience. While reproductive health is seen first and foremost as a health issue, we must reproductive health leave must be recognised as a worker’s right.

“After 28 months of trying to get this legislation through the Seanad, the passing of our bill in the Seanad and its command of cross party support will mark an important moment in the campaign for reproductive health leave.

“In 2021, New Zealand became only the second country in the world to introduce paid time off work for early miscarriage. Working women in New Zealand have access to three days paid time off work for should they experience an early miscarriage.

“India, the first country to introduce this compassionate measure into the workplace, provide up to six weeks’ leave to support people when they need it most and, earlier this year, the state of California also legislated for reproductive health leave.

“The teachers union, the INTO, were first to raise these issues here in Ireland highlighting in a 2019 survey of their members that some 60% of teachers had faced reproductive health issues in the workplace.

“We know from research abroad of the impact of pregnancy loss. Tommy’s, the pregnancy and baby loss charity, found that 20% of women experience PTSD after a miscarriage, and 16-18% of women will suffer from anxiety and depression.

“Of the 14,000 women who experience this type of loss a year in Ireland, their only option is to take sick leave to recover physically and also come to terms with the loss.

“For those going through fertility treatment we know that so many end up exhausting their annual leave and face the horrible situation of asking for unpaid leave while forking out enormous sums to pay for treatment.

“To his credit, Minister for Equality Roderick O’Gorman has listened to our cause and earlier this year commissioned research undertaken by the Pregnancy Loss Research group in UCC under the stewardship of Dr Keelin O’Donoghue. We eagerly await the publication of this analysis and very much believe that it will add great weight to our argument for protected workplace leave.

“Unfortunately, Government have shown little to no interest in fertility leave to date and questions do have to be asked about the joined up thinking between the introduction of publicly available IVF and no corresponding workplace leave particularly given the series of medical appointments involved. We firmly believe that ensuring workers can take the time they need off work to pursue these treatments is crucial.

“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.”

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