Plans to introduce maternity leave for councillors have been announced by Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government Peter Burke.

The proposals approved by Cabinet will allow a temporary substitute to take the place of a councillor for the 26-week maternity leave period.

This also includes a further 14-week unpaid period, in line with statutory provision.

Concern had been expressed that women on leave were under pressure to attend council votes and community meetings.

Minister Burke has formed the view that councillors should be able to totally switch off from council work during maternity leave.

However, for those who wish to continue in the role there is an option of a 26-week payment to hire someone to provide administrative support to the councillor.

These proposals stem from the work of a women's cross-party group established by Minister Burke last year.