Women diagnosed with cancer to be allowed pause their maternity leave under new plans

Roderic O’Gorman says he will reverse law that does not allow women receiving treatment to pause leave

Women who suffer cancer or other serious illnesses during their maternity leave will soon be in a position to use all their maternity leave once their treatment ends under plans being developed by Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman.

Mr O’Gorman announced at the Green Party convention that he will help to ensure the delivery of the Leave Our Leave campaign by the Irish Cancer Society for women who suffer cancer, or similar serious illnesses, during the period of their maternity leave.

The present situation under the Maternity Protection Act 2004 is that if a woman is diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy, or after the birth of her child, the period of treatment cannot be considered separately to the maternity leave.

Some 60 women are affected by this each year. The situation only emerges once they try to pause their maternity leave while they are being treated for cancer.


The Irish Cancer Society welcomed Mr O’Gorman’s announcement. Its chief executive Averil Power said that, on average, one woman each week was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant or with a young baby.

“As a result, they are separated from their little ones while in hospital and are often too sick to care for them when they are at home.

“Right now, they cannot defer their maternity leave until their treatment ends. So when their maternity leave runs out, they go back to work and never get back the vital bonding time they missed when they were sick,” she said.

Amending legislation will be required to address the anomaly. Mr O’Gorman has told colleagues he hopes to deliver it by Christmas.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times