Research in the USA shows that men who take paid paternity leave are more likely to be involved with their children in the years to follow.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced last year that he was taking two months of paternity leave, a most unusual and welcome announcement from a male CEO.
Facebook offers its US employees up to four months of paid maternity or paternity leave, which they can take throughout the year.
If we could see male CEOs and senior managers taking paternity leave in Ireland, it gives an unspoken green light to men in the workplace that it is more than acceptable to follow suit.
The more time off men take from work, the better it is for women, the baby and the family.
The boss taking a leave sends an important message to employees that the company policy is authentic.
If the boss is able to be out for a period of time, and have his or her work covered, then so can other staff.
The above is relevant to Ireland, as the government has announced that new statutory paternity leave will be coming into force in this country in September.
It will be paid at a rate of €230 a week, the same as maternity benefit, and based on the same PRSI contribution requirements.
The legislation, which will be introduced by way of the Family Leave Bill, will also allow fathers to take their leave at any stage within 26 weeks of the birth, which provides great flexibility to new parents.
Until now, Ireland has been behind the majority of European countries in its exclusion of paternity leave from employment law.
New fathers typically used days from their annual leave, but this could be granted or denied at the employer’s discretion.
From September, fathers will have the option to apply for two weeks’ paid paternity leave following the birth of their child.
The Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, said, “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.”
It is another step towards formally recognising that fathers are involved in child-rearing too, and this benefits all of us.
When fathers take paternity leave and parental leave, it benefits the whole family.
The function of paternity leave is to care for the mother and the baby, and of course it helps the father to build a relationship with the baby.
For farmer employers, it is important to know that your male employees will soon be statutorily entitled to two weeks of paternity leave, from September onwards.
This paid leave is also available to self-employed men.
The Bill has been drafted to provide for same-sex couples also.
There are provisions in the bill that the father must inform the employer of the intention to take paternity leave, and supply the documentation required.
It must usually be applied for four weeks in advance.
The leave can be taken in one continuous period of two weeks at any time commencing on the date of the birth, or placement in the case of an adoption, and ending not later than 26 weeks thereafter.
This means that a couple can chose to avail of the leave at the time of the birth or at the end of the period of paid maternity leave.
Thus, if they choose, they can have 28 weeks of continual paid maternity-paternity leave or any time in between.
This new legislation is certainly a move in the right direction, and one to be welcomed.
However, offering paternity leave may be only half the battle. The real problem may be getting men to actually take it. Perceptions are changing, however, only time will tell.
Karen Walsh, from a farming background at Grenagh, Co Cork, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors and Commissioners for Oaths, 17, South Mall, Cork.
While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, solicitor Karen Walsh does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising, and you should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.
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