Inquiry into leave for bereaved fathers not entitled to paid paternity leave

Leo Varadkar: Pension issue to be discussed.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is to investigate claims that bereaved fathers are not entitled to the new paid paternity leave.

Speaking at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee yesterday, Sinn Féin’s John Brady highlighted what he said was a “serious anomaly” in the current system.

Mr Brady said under the scheme, mothers can avail of two weeks of the payment when parents experience a bereavement and lose their child unexpectedly after 24 weeks, but fathers currently cannot, and have to return to work.

“This is a serious anomaly that is forcing fathers who should, in my mind be entitled to this payment, back to work,” Mr Brady said.

“At a time like that when a mother needs as much support as possible from the father, he should be able to stay at home,” he added.

Mr Varadkar agreed that the issue would be looked into. The two week paid paternity leave system came into force on September 1.

Last night, the Department of Social Protection said: “Where a still birth occurs after 24 weeks the mother is entitled to maternity benefit (the full 26 weeks). The father will also qualify for paternity benefit of two weeks, subject to both parents satisfying all other maternity benefit/ paternity benefit conditions.”

During the committee meeting, several attendees expressed concerns regarding pensions which are the single biggest expenditure for the department during 2016, at €7 billion.

“There is a misconception that most welfare payments go to the unemployed — this is not the case, in fact it’s far from it,” said Mr Varadkar.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins expressed concerns that only 16% of people receiving contributory pensions are women.

In response, Mr Varadkar advised the issue will be discussed further as pensions will form a big part of the Government’s programme for 2017.

At the committee, Mr Varadkar also said the results of a major survey into which benefits the self-employed would like to see most from the Department of Social Protection will be shared in the coming weeks. He said proposals for alternative schemes to Job Bridge will shortly be announced.


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