166. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to expand the parental leave process to further strengthen support for parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17214/18]


Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Partnership Government includes a commitment to increase paid parental leave during the first year of a child’s life, as research shows that parental care is of particular importance in the first year of life.
To further this commitment, the Government has established an interdepartmental working group to develop proposals to give effect to the programme commitments. The key objectives of this group are to:
- Develop options as to the duration of the leave, the age of the eligible child, and the level of payment to be offered;
- Determine the usefulness of adopting a phased approach;
- Estimate the likely costs arising; and
- Align any proposals as much as possible with a European Commission Proposal for a Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers which is currently under discussion at working group level under the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU.
The interdepartmental group is currently working on a policy approach and I expect it to report with its proposals towards the end of this month.  In this light, the Deputy will appreciate that it would be premature to give any details in relation to the expansion of parental leave.