Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar marked Father’s Day by confirming publication of the Paternity Bill to provide fathers with two weeks of paternity leave and two weeks of paternity benefit.
Minister Varadkar visited Farmleigh to promote the Bill to families. It will be formally published the following day and introduced to the Dail that same week.
When enacted, the legislation will allow new fathers to start the combined package of paternity leave and paternity benefit at any time within the first six months following birth. It will also apply to the fathers of newly adopted children.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said: “It’s great to be able to do something for dads by providing paternity benefit to all PRSI contributors for the first time. Parenting is changing and fathers are more and more involved in raising their children. Ireland is behind the curve compared to our European colleagues but this combined package of Paternity Leave and Paternity Benefit will help to address that. The Department of Social Protection will provide paid paternity benefit of €230 per week for the two weeks of Paternity Leave. Employers will also have the option of providing a further top-up to the dad’s regular salary if they so choose.
“There is plenty of evidence showing the vital role that fathers as well as mothers play in the life of newborn babies and young children. The more time that fathers can spend with their babies – the better. I hope that the Government will be in a position to extend this provision further in the years ahead. I’m also very happy that the 256,000 self-employed men in Ireland will able to take paid Paternity Benefit for the very first time.
“Because they are self-employed, they can already take leave but most don’t due to loss of income or business. This measure will make it a little bit easier for them. Paternity Leave and Benefit can be taken at any point up until the child reaches 28 weeks of age”.
This Bill meets the commitment in Budget 2016 and in the Programme for Government to introduce 2 weeks’ Paternity Leave and an associated social insurance benefit payment as from September 2016.
The legislation is worthwhile, progressive, and in the Irish context, ground breaking. Unlike most EU Member States we have no provision for paternity leave, a situation that renders us out of step with the changed and more active role that fathers in modern societies play in raising their children.
Evidence shows that fathers want to spend time caring for and bonding with their children. However as things stand, in order to take time off around the birth of their child (or later on in the first year) they have to use other existing leave arrangements. Evidence from countries such as Norway shows that paternity leave promotes social benefits and a fairer sharing of family responsibilities, and has a positive impact on fatherhood. Ireland’s introduction of paternity leave at this juncture is particularly timely given that the European Commission is reviewing its policy options for better addressing the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families.
This Bill will enhance that care and facilitate a more active role for fathers in the crucial early stages of their child’s life.
The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to significantly increase parental leave over the next five years and to further cut the cost of childcare. This Bill provides for two weeks and we plan to go further, as resources allow. We want to give every child the best start in life and the Government believes we should focus investment on early years and early intervention in order to tackle the barriers that citizens face at the earliest possible opportunity.
It is envisaged that the Bill will be enacted by end July, so that it can be commenced in time for the benefit and leave arrangements to roll out at the end of September.
This Bill at one level deals with a simple issue – the creation of 2 weeks’ paternity leave and a paternity benefit. However, there were also quite complex issues in relation to the interplay with Maternity and Adoptive leave that had to be resolved. There are rare and tragic situations that we must cater for, including stillbirth, death of a newborn baby, or death of one of the parents. Essentially, we take a humane approach. If the baby is stillborn or dies, the entitlement to paternity leave still continues and if one parent dies, the other parent inherits whatever leave has not been taken.
Amendments both to family leave legislation and to social welfare legislation were required, and the Departments of Justice & Equality and the Department of Social Protection worked closely together to bring this work to fruition. We have dealt with both sets of amendments in one Bill and this was a joint Memo between the two Ministers.
The Bill also provides for same sex couples on an equal basis with other couples.