A news report in the Daily Mail newspaper said Social Affairs Minister Seamus Brennan is extending maternity benefit entitlements for the second time in a year. The government’s most recent change, effective March 1, 2006, allowed for 22 weeks of paid leave with the option of taking another 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The new rule will allow for 26 weeks of paid leave with the option of taking another 16 weeks of unpaid leave.
“This will result in mothers having the best part of a year from when their baby is born to dedicate to those important early months of their child’s growth.,” Brennan said, according to the news report.
The Daily Mail said that maternity benefit was increased in the last budget by more than 10% from a minimum of â‚¬182.60 per week to a maximum â‚¬265.60.
Brennan announced earlier this month that government spending on social welfare will increase in 2007 to a total of â‚¬14.07 billion – an increase of over â‚¬458 million – including the cost of the added maternity leave benefits.
“This department has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that the fruits of our economic growth benefit all, particularly those who feel most vulnerable and are in need of vital support. We can all of us only be proud of a booming economy and a vibrant, modern country when it reaches out and lifts those who, for whatever reason, have been left behind or feel marginalized,” Brennan said in a statement.
A study from Mercer Human Resource Consulting earlier in 2006 found the UK and Ireland have the lowest levels of statutory maternity leave pay in Western Europe (See Maternity Benefits Vary Greatly Among European Countries ).