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25th Jun 2022

Irish Cancer Society launches campaign for deferred maternity leave for cancer patients

Trine Jensen-Burke

maternity leave

Clearly, this should have happened a long time ago.

In Ireland, pregnant employees have the right to take 26 weeks’ maternity leave plus up to 16 weeks’ additional maternity leave.

However, currently, a new mother who is being treated for cancer in Ireland cannot defer their maternity leave.

Fathers who are ill, on the other hand, are entitled to put back their paternity leave.

This, says the Irish Cancer Society, has to change, and the organisation has now launched a campaign for the laws on maternity leave in Ireland to be changed for cancer patients, calling for leave entitlements to be treated equally.

Rachel Morrogh, Director of Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said it wants maternity leave to be made equal to paternity leave, which can be deferred in the case of illness.

“Maternity leave has to be taken in a continuous period after the child is born and you can’t defer it,” Morrogh said at the launch of the campaign.

“So that means that when you suffer a serious illness during pregnancy or on maternity leave, you can’t actually defer that leave. Whereas if you are a man, and you have the paternity leave, which all men are eligible for now, you can actually defer that if you become ill before you take that leave.”

She added:

“So we’re calling for an equalisation in the legislation so women can defer their maternity leave in the same way that men can defer their paternity leave.”

Speaking to RTE News earlier this week, Erica Tierney, 35, reveals she was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was pregnant. Her chemotherapy started three weeks after her daughter Róise was born and ended one week before the end of her six months’ maternity leave.

“Unable to defer leave”

Tierney discovered once she was diagnosed that she was unable to defer the benefit and she felt robbed of the time to bond with her baby.

“I was still really sick at that time and due to the chemo and other drugs I was on, I had so many bad, bad days where I couldn’t really mind Róise, so I never really felt like I had any kind of a normal maternity leave with her,” she explains.

“She’s my first baby and I was anticipating being out in the park and going into coffee shops and Water Babies and all those things. And instead, I was getting a wig and going to the hospital a few times a week or I was stuck in bed.

Today, the Irish Cancer Society launched a campaign outside Leinster House calling on the Government to allow new mothers with cancer to defer their maternity leave until they have been treated and recovered from cancer.