Forcing people to choose between their salary and family or their own physical and mental health is heartless. It’s especially cruel and even dangerous for a newborn. It is time to ask Irish employers to pay their female employees a fair maternity allowance.
Amid all the fuss about the new National Maternity Hospital, we recently learned that Ireland offers one of the lowest levels of paid maternity leave in Europe at €250 per week. That’s a breathtakingly meager amount, well below minimum wage for a full-time workweek.
It is much less than the €350 weekly Covid payment and miles from a decent living wage. In addition, in July 2012, maternity benefit became taxable for the first time.
You can’t raise a new baby or feed a household with that amount. No wonder our birth rate is falling every year.
Yes, we are fortunate here in Ireland to have the opportunity to take more time than anywhere else, but when the 26 weeks end, so does the small token payment. And most new moms can’t afford to take unpaid time off. I couldn’t and can’t.
This is despite a wealth of evidence showing that taking maternity leave during a child’s first year improves child and maternal health. Imagine if maternity leave is good for new mothers, babies and ultimately our society.
I know Leinster House doesn’t have a magic money tree behind the house. I’m not asking the government to pay this time. Why should all taxpayers pay for someone else’s baby and baby leave?
It is the woman’s own job that should fund maternity leave.
Yes, the post-pandemic shift to working from home was a game changer for many employers. They realize that working from home doesn’t undermine productivity, it actually improves it. And many workers don’t want to go back to their old desk rat routine.
But there are also many new moms who can’t work from home because they have a frontline job, their employer won’t let them, or because working from home is just not practical. Not every job can be done with a newborn on your lap.
The current maternity leave system prevents many mothers from caring for their children in the way they think is best. Moms who can take the time they need to bond with their babies and return to work confident and ready. And it’s far better for any employer’s bottom line to avoid staff turnover and retain the expertise and skills of employees who happen to have babies while on duty.
It’s not like women have a baby every year. The average number of children born in Ireland to a woman aged 15-44 has fallen from four in 1965 to 1.75 in 2018.
Best of all, moms are returning to the workforce with new insights. I know that being a mother has given me a broader sense of purpose and a better ability to prioritize and get things done quickly. It is also time for society to recognize that women must become mothers for our society to survive. And these moms need as much free time to be with the next generation as they need to work.
Normal life in Ireland has changed a lot over the past 40 years, particularly in terms of our attitude towards work. Private life must be given more priority for companies and employers. If all working mothers knew that their lives and those of their children were valued, we would all be in a much better place.
A lack of flexible employment opportunities, paid maternity leave and childcare for babies under the age of one have increased challenges for Irish mothers. We are so stressed that we are urged to scream in empty playgrounds. Cathartic release may feel good in the short term, but screaming is not a long-term adaptive coping strategy. Moms need help and we need it now.
It should be a right to care for our babies. It should be the expectation. I know there are people (probably men) who will yell that we shouldn’t have had children if we weren’t willing to face the consequences of having children as a choice. Simply not. This has so much to offer that it is impossible for me to address every point. The costs of maternity pay and childcare are all intertwined, and we have a country that is failing the very children who will one day make up our tax pool – our future, if you will. Our rapidly aging society depends on future generations of taxpayers to support pensions and our social security system. Ireland needs the patter of little feet.
Granting six months of fully paid leave to all employees who give birth in your service shouldn’t be controversial and definitely shouldn’t seem like an impossible goal.
Or let’s be crazy and demand a year of paid maternity leave and a salary that keeps up with inflation. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel so respected by your boss?
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/employers-should-value-the-mothers-who-work-for-them-and-pay-their-maternity-leave-41652617.html Employers should value the mothers who work for them and pay for their maternity leave