News & Media

Women returning to work from maternity leave left high and dry

20 May 2020

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht

Labour Senator Marie Sherlock has again called on Government to take seriously the issue of women returning to work from maternity leave.

Senator Sherlock said:

“It is nearly a month now since an anomaly was first identified in the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) that is resulting in some new mothers returning to work being disqualified from the scheme. We have seen no action from Government to address what amounts to blatant discrimination. 

"It is not acceptable for the Government to shift responsibility and effectively blame employers for this lacuna as Government TD Peter Burke sought to do in a media interview last Saturday 16th. The quid pro quo for the Government asking companies to close due to Covid-19 is that the State pays a large share of the wage bill. Employers cannot be blamed for any loopholes in the legislation.

“These women are effectively having to be put on temporary layoff as there’s no other option available to the employer.

"This is a clear affront to our equality legislation whereby pregnancy and the period of maternity leave is a protected status. This means a woman cannot be dismissed due to absence from pregnancy or having had a baby. 

"And what is worse, is that those women that are not eligible for the TWSS are being given conflicting advice by the DEASP with the result that some are having their application for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment rejected.

"This is simply unacceptable and I am calling on the Government to move immediately to publish guidelines to women returning to work on what their precise entitlements are.  

“It is time for the Government to stop dragging their feet. Ministers can’t keep acknowledging the problem but refuse to act. This can be fixed administratively with immediate effect if there is the political will.”