The Government must “step up and support” new parents who are being faced with an “unacceptable choice” between securing childcare and fully returning to work.
This is the view of Labour Galway City West councillor, Niall McNelis, who said many families in Galway are facing a situation where they are expected to return to work as their sectors re-open, but who cannot access the childcare they need.
“This problem is particularly acute for new mothers and fathers looking to access childcare services for the first time,” he said. “With the childcare sector having been completely shut down for months, there has been no way for first-time parents to secure new places for very young children.”
Situation is 'unacceptable'
Cllr McNelis said the result of this is that the economy is re-opening before parents are able to find the childcare they need. “This situation is unacceptable,” he said. “This is leading to a stressful gap where parents must either delay their return to work or seek special treatment from their employers. At worst, it leads to employees with children being unable to return to work at all.”
While the Government has committed a financial package of support for the childcare sector, Cllr McNelis wants the Government to protect parents from being penalised at work for lack of childcare services. “The Workplace Relations Commission should issue guidance to employers as to how to reasonably accommodate their employees with unmet childcare needs,” he said.
He is also calling on the Government to act on the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s proposal to extend paid maternity leave and relieve some of the pressure on working mothers.
“Post-Covid, we have a clear opportunity to do better by parents,” he said, “and take bold steps to ensure childcare is affordable, available, and reliable for everyone.”