News & Media

New parents must not be forced to choose between childcare and returning to work

7 July 2020

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

The Government must step up and support new parents who are being faced with an unacceptable choice between securing childcare and fully returning to work, according to Labour Spokesperson on Employment Affairs Marie Sherlock.

Speaking after the National Womens’ Council and Extend Maternity 2020 demonstration outside Leinster House this morning, Senator Sherlock said:

“I have spoken to so many families who find themselves trapped in a hugely frustrating cycle. They are expected to fully return to work as their sectors re-open, but they are simply unable to access the childcare they need. This problem is particularly acute for new mothers and fathers looking to access childcare services for the first time. With the childcare sector having been completely shut down for months, there has been no way for first-time parents to secure new places for their very young children.

“The result has been that most of the economy is now re-opening before parents are able to find the childcare they need. This is leading to a stressful gap where parents must either delay their return to work or seek special treatment from their employers. At worst, it leads to employees with children being unable to return to work at all.

“This situation is unacceptable. Childcare has long been overlooked by government, with parents and especially new mothers expected to step back from their careers due to lack of adequate services. Post-Covid, we have a clear opportunity to do better by parents and take bold steps to ensure childcare is affordable, available and reliable for everyone.”

Senator Sherlock continued, outlining some of the steps that could be taken by the new Government to assist working parents:

“The Government has already committed a financial package of support for the childcare sector. If this is to help new parents, it must include a swift commitment to funding new childcare places, especially for very young children and babies.

“The Government must also act to protect parents from being penalised at work for lack of childcare services. The least that could be done is for the Workplace Relations Commission to issue guidance to employers as to how to reasonably accommodate their employees with unmet childcare needs.

"Finally, and crucially, the Government must act on the NWCI’s proposal to extend paid maternity leave and relieve some of the pressure on working mothers. The Programme for Government has already committed to this in theory; it is now up to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party to step up for working parents at the critical moment when their support is needed most.”