Government urged to increase maternity leave
THE Government has been told to increase maternity leave to a year to reduce the cost of childcare for cash-strapped families.
A cross-departmental working group tasked with finding solutions to the rising cost of childcare was also told to increase the wages of those working in the sector - some who are earning as little as €10.40 an hour despite having third-level education.
The group - which is spearheaded by James Reilly's Department of Children - met with relevant bodies including Early Childhood Ireland and Barnardos yesterday to discuss ways of tackling the childcare crisis.
Early Childhood Ireland chief executive Teresa Heeney told the meeting that maternity leave should be increased from six months to a full year as this would mean fewer children under the age of one would be put into childcare.
The cost of caring for children of this age is expensive as under regulations childcare centres must have one adult staff member for every three children under the age of one.
"They need to develop a plan to extend maternity benefit for 12 months so children don't arrive in services until they are one," Ms Heeney told the Irish Independent.
"One adult to three children is very high and it's virtually impossible to charge enough to cover those costs," she added.
The State spent more than €260m on maternity leave payments last year, according to figures provided to childcare groups ahead of the meeting
Ms Heeney told the meeting she was approached by a childcare worker with a third-level degree who was forced to supplement her wages by working as cleaner part-time. She said this needed to be addressed.