Cllr Sarah O’Reilly (Aontú).

Councillor welcomes inclusion of ‘woman’ in WLB Bill

A Cavan councillor has said she was “delighted” to see references to ‘woman’ and ‘female’ in the recently published Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022.

Aontú’s Sarah O’Reilly’s had called for the words to be retained in the draft legislation at the September meeting of Cavan County Council. Councillors heard the response from the Department for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to the motion at last Monday's November meeting of the local authority .

In the reply received from the office of Minister Roderic O’Gorman, it was explained that the “primary purpose” of the Bill was to provide for the “transposition of elements” in the EU Work Life Balance Directive and to extend those entitlements regarding breastfeeding and lactation breaks from six months to two years.

‘The proposals will compliment family leave and other entitlements already in place and provide additional flexibility to ensure that parents and carers can be supported to balance their working and family lives.’

It accepted that the Bill also included ‘technical amendments’ to the Maternity Protection Acts to ‘ensure that all pregnant employees’ in the State can access maternity leave, ‘including transgender males who are pregnant. A very small number of technical amendments to the Acts will correct this anomaly’.

The department response noted too that ‘for the most part’ the Maternity Protection Act 1994 is expressed in gender neutral language, referring to ‘pregnant employee’ throughout, other than a single reference of ‘woman’ and ‘female employee’.

The references to ‘mother’ in the Act were not amended.

Cllr O’Reilly had stated that her own “right to be called a woman” or to be “referred to as female” is “important” to her.

“They help define who we are and who we have become. I agree with those women who contacted me,” said Cllr O’Reilly, who claimed it is “de-humanising” to otherwise remove an “important part of our identity”.

“Women have fought too hard and for too long to allow our rights to be taken away from us without consultation for fear of offending others, however misguided, in the name of inclusion.”

To the November monthly meeting, Cllr O’Reilly said she was “happy to support” the campaign to “defend the words ‘girl’, ‘woman’, ‘female’ and ‘mother’ from being removed from legislation under the guise of inclusivity.”

She felt it “shocking” that this had to be campaigned for, adding that the campaign “continues” in other areas.