Paid paternity leave a progressive legacy of Labour in government

24 June 2016

In last year’s budget, Labour introduced landmark proposals to legislate to allow for fathers to take two weeks’ paid paternal leave for the first time.

The new statutory paternity leave is to be paid at a rate of €230 a week, the same as maternity benefit, and based on the same PRSI contribution requirements.

It was previous Government with Labour at its heart, that approved the drafting of this Bill and indeed it was Joan Burton and Brendan Howlin who secured funding for the scheme to start this year.

Joan had committed at the Labour Party Conference in February 2015 that we would introduce this measure in Budget 2016, and as Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, she was as good as her word.

It is long past the time to endorse and give practical effect to the principle of parental equality, by providing for paternity leave and paternity benefit, and I fully support and welcome its introduction now, as it means that we are now at last, in line with so many other EU Member States.

In my adult life, I have seen a massive change in the role that fathers take in the very early life of their child. It wasn’t too long ago when a father’s role was in work or at home when a mother was in hospital giving birth.

Those days are over. But after the birth of a child and all the joy and change that brings, a working father is required to return to work unless an individual arrangement or annual holiday days are taken. Of course most fathers want to spend time caring for and bonding with their children. It is quite unfair that current statutory leave arrangements don’t facilitate this.

At one level, therefore, this is simply a step towards enhanced parental equality. At another level, these policies also support increased labour market participation, particularly amongst women.

Today’s Bill is just a step – but a very welcome one – in the right direction. The Labour Party supports it and looks forward to working with other groups in the House towards the further strengthening of legislation in this area.

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