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Minister O’ Gorman, make good your commitment to mothers with cancer. Sherlock calls for changes to Maternity Protection Act without delay.

11 April 2024

  • Women going through a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy or postpartum must be able to defer their maternity leave.
  • S14A of Maternity Protection Act must be amended.
  • Minister O’ Gorman made an explicit promise last October that there would be progress in 2023.
  • Six months on, there has been no progress.

Labour’s Senator Marie Sherlock speaking in the Seanad today sounded the alarm on the Minister’s failure to make good his commitment to new mothers with a serious illness. Speaking at the Green party annual convention last October, Minister O’ Gorman promised to deliver on a key ask of the Leave our Leave campaigned spearheaded by the Irish Cancer Society and mothers to new born babies with a serious illness.

Senator Sherlock said

"Maternity leave is in place to allow mothers to care for their new born babies, however for a small number of women each year, they sadly do not get to devote those 26 weeks to solely looking after their newborn but have to spend their time getting life saving treatment for themselves.

"There is an outrageous hypocrisy that mothers to new born babies requiring hospitalisation can extend their maternity leave, fathers taking paternity leave can defer if they become sick,  workers on holiday leave can defer if they are sick during that period, yet mothers themselves are actively excluded by legislation from deferring their maternity leave if they themselves become ill.

"We understand that around 60 women each year are diagnosed with cancer in pregnancy and they are denied any extension to their maternity leave. This situation has been raised by the Irish Cancer Society through its Leave our Leave campaign and in October Minister O’ Gorman made an explicit commitment to this campaign. Six months on we have seen no progress.

"Today I sought answers from Minister O’ Gorman and his response is that he hopes to bring proposals to cabinet “shortly” but that the proposals will be part of a wider package of reforms to the Equality legislation. For the women who were very much relying on the Minister’s commitments from last year, this is a bitter disappointment, it leaves them in limbo and we hold little confidence that the changes will be enacted soon.

"We call on Minister O’Gorman to prioritise the rights and well-being of women by swiftly enacting measures to ensure that no woman battling illness during maternity leave loses their entitlements. The time for action is now."