Varadkar to firms: 'Top-up maternity benefit'
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is urging more employers to pay top-ups to maternity benefit.
The Budget saw maternity benefit increase by €5 a week to €235, but there is no obligation on employers to cover maternity pay.
Mr Varadkar said that many companies do offer "excellent packages" but "many others could do better and can afford to do better". State maternity benefit is payable for 26 weeks.
"I encourage more employers to top-up this payment and offer full pay for all, or as many of the 26 weeks as they can afford," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar was quizzed on his proposals to lower income taxes by raising the point of entry to the higher rate. He also wants to merge USC with PRSI to create a new social insurance charge linked to "wider and better benefits".
RTE's Claire Byrne put it to him that his proposals were the first shot in the upcoming Fine Gael leadership battle. Mr Varadkar replied: "Everything I say and do... for the last year-and-a-half now has been described as that. I was setting out a view... I've held for a very long time."
Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea raised concerns that merging USC and PRSI would still result in the "same pool of money" while income tax was being cut. He said expanding benefits would then have to come at the expense of other services. Mr Varadkar said more people would pay social insurance because employment and incomes are rising.