The Irish Cancer Society has welcomed Minister Roderic O’Gorman’s announcement today that he will legislate to enable women with cancer to defer their maternity leave until the end of their treatments.
The announcement was made at the Green Party convention on 21 October in Cork.
The need for this change was highlighted in the two-year ‘Leave Our Leave’ campaign by the Irish Cancer Society.
At present, men can defer paternity leave if they fall ill, whereas women do not have the same right.
The Maternity Protection Act 2004 stipulates that anyone with a cancer diagnosis, or any other serious illness during pregnancy must use their maternity leave to cover their treatment.
Maternity leave can only be postponed in cases where the child is hospitalised, this means that all or most of their maternity leave is spent in hospital receiving life-saving treatment.
Averil Power, CEO at the Irish Cancer Society responded to the announcement: “Every week, a woman somewhere in Ireland is diagnosed with cancer while pregnant or with a young baby.
“As a result, they are separated from their little ones while in hospital and are often too sick to care for them when they are at home.
“Right now, they cannot defer their maternity leave until their treatment ends,” continued Ms Power.
According to the Irish Cancer Society’s website, 60 women are diagnosed with cancer whilst pregnant in Ireland every year. This is more than one woman each week.
Minister O’Gorman plans to bring a bill to Cabinet before Christmas.
“I’d also like to thank the many women and their families who have supported the ‘Leave Our Leave’ campaign, especially Erica Tierney, Mary Canavan and Emma McGuinness,” said Ms Power.
“By bravely sharing their stories, they have highlighted how awful it is to go through cancer while pregnant or with a young baby and how cruel it is to be unable to postpone your maternity leave until you are better.
“Thanks to them, when this change is implemented, other women will be spared that heartbreak,” concluded Ms Power.