Ireland near top of maternity leave table
Published 05/03/2011 | 05:00
Irish women's maternity leave rights are the third best out of 35 countries.
But although Irish mothers are near the top of the chart when it comes to the amount of time off and paid time they get, the value of their pay is not as high as in many other countries.
A new comparison of maternity entitlements across the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations shows Ireland only lags behind the UK and Greece.
Irish mothers get a total of 42 weeks off work after giving birth, of which 26 weeks are paid.
The UK came first in the survey, with working mothers entitled to a full year off work, and a generous 40 paid weeks.
Meanwhile, Greek women get less time off than mothers in the UK, but just more than Irish women, with a total of 43 weeks.
However, their pay entitlement is better than the UK, as all of the leave is provided on full pay.
Irish mothers receive maternity payments equal to less than 10 weeks' earnings here on average. Irish women are guaranteed a social welfare benefit that is worth up to 80pc of their wages.
Some employers pay above this but, due to a cap on these payments, the survey shows the value on average is worth less than 10 weeks' pay.
The new report, 'Doing Better for Families', to be released next month, reveals dramatic differences in women's rights to paid and unpaid leave across the globe.
In Austria, France and the Netherlands, women are entitled to just 16 weeks off, mostly on full pay.
The US is the only country where women are not entitled to paid maternity leave. Average maternity leave across the OECD countries is 19 weeks, with around 18 weeks paid.
Employers' group IBEC said the survey showed maternity entitlements were very generous here, compared to other countries.
"I am pleasantly surprised to see Ireland is quite generous in terms of its entitlements but I don't think we could extend if much further without causing a burden for employers," said the head of IBEC's employment law service, Rhona Murphy.
"Irish women get 42 weeks, and 26 weeks paid, which is more generous than most of our counterparts," she said.
"The length of time off is third highest and the paid leave entitlement is about fifth highest, which is well ahead in the league tables."
Meanwhile, the OECD has released a second report in advance of International Women's Day next Tuesday, which reveals that mothers spend more than twice as much time looking after their children than fathers.
The average working mother spends 100 minutes looking after her children a day, compared with 42 minutes by fathers. In Ireland, the average working father spends 69 minutes a day looking after his children, while working women spend 150 minutes with them.