Paid Paternity Leave To Be Made Law, As Expert Warns 2 Weeks Leave Is Still Not Good Enough
Finally, the Irish Government is set to bring in legislation that will allow fathers to take two weeks of paid paternal leave.
Minister for Justice, Frances Fitxgerald, will later on today bring a memo to Cabinet with the support of the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, confirming the commitments that were made in the Budget 2016.
And while the two weeks' paid paternity leave is said to be a giant leap forward in terms of supporting Irish families in the first year of welcoming a new baby, experts warn that Ireland is still falling short compared to many other European countries, where combined parental leave can stretch as far as 18 months.
As part of the Family Leave Bill being brought to Cabinet today, fathers can apply for their two weeks of paid leave at any stage within 26 weeks of the birth of their baby. The new statutory paternity leave will be paid at a rate of €230 a week, which is the same as state maternity benefits.
Currently, new Irish fathers typically have to use days from their annual leave, something that is up to the discretion of their employer to grant or deny. This exclusion of paternity leave from employment law has practically left Ireland in the dark ages compared to the majority of other European countries.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, Teresa Heeney, stated that while the two weeks' paid leave set to be granted to fathers from September onwards is great, Ireland still has a long way to go in supporting families.
"Ireland needs to be meeting UNICEF guidelines that say children should spend the first year of their life at home," Heeney explains. "We are almost always at the bottom of the table when it comes to early childhood education investment and that has to change."
However, Heeney points out that change is on the horizon, as more and more international companies in Ireland are giving longer periods of paternity leave to new fathers as they "realise it has a positive impact on families and employees and it allows them to retain parents."
Ahead of the election, the Labour Party has also proposed introducing three months’ parental leave, a benefit that according to the party would be in addition to paternity and maternity leave, and could be split between the two parents.
What do YOU think, dear readers? Is the two week paid paternity leave at least a move in the right direction? Would YOU like combined parental leave to stretch even further? Join in the conversation with us on Twitter at @Herfamilydotie