New mothers in Ireland are calling for a once-off extension to maternity leave and pay by three months following the disruption of Covid-19.

The #ExtendMaternityLeave2020 campaign aims to highlight how women on maternity leave during the crisis have missed out on vital supports and health services and still need time to access them before returning to work.

The lockdown prevented many mothers from availing of family and professional support in their babies’ first months.

“Babies have missed developmental checks, vital scans, hospital appointments and even vaccinations have been cancelled or delayed. In addition, mothers could not access the many support groups that provide critical support when becoming a new mum,” said Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

Orla O’Connor, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland with Donegal TD Thomas Pringle and Donegal Senator Eileen Flynn. Photo: National Women’s Council of Ireland

With many women due back at work in the coming weeks, campaigners are urgently calling for extra time.

Women affected by this issue took to the gates of Dáil Éireann yesterday to remind the Government of the positive response that then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had given to the women in relation to their demand. The issue was subsequently raised during Leaders Questions in the Dáil.

Together, campaigners collected 28,000 signatures for a petition calling on the Government to extend maternity leave and pay for a once off 12 weeks period during the crisis.

Photo: National Women’s Council of Ireland

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI added, “This is a real opportunity for our new Government to show their commitment to women’s equality and to extend maternity leave and pay for women who gave birth during Covid by three months.

“In many cases, women gave birth without a partner or loved one present, and faced into motherhood without family or professional support.  

“It is crucial that maternity leave and pay is extended for these women so that they can catch up on missed developmental checks and hospital appointments.”