408. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the proposed family leave Bill will be published; if it will deal with the issue of maternity leave and premature births where babies have to be detained in hospital in intensive care; if he will specify that maternity leave should not commence as a result of a premature birth, that is, before 35 weeks, and permit this period to be treated as care leave while the child or children are in hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13279/15]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin): The Family Leave Bill will be published in 2015 and as previously announced, this Bill will provide for the consolidation into one piece of legislation of the current provisions regarding maternity, adoptive, parental and carer's leave. This will also provide an opportunity to consider other issues with regard to the operation of such leaves, including the question raised by the Deputy.
Currently section 7 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 provides for postponement of maternity leave when the child is hospitalised. A request for such a postponement can only be made when at least 14 weeks of the maternity leave has been taken and the employer agrees to the postponement. I should make the point that it is a requirement of EU law that at least 14 weeks maternity leave is taken after the birth of a child.
The current entitlement with regard to maternity leave is 26 weeks together with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave. This is above the European average and there is also a provision of 18 weeks parental leave for each parent per child. This leave is unpaid.