New mothers would be able to gift two weeks of their maternity leave to their child’s father under legislation being considered by the government. Kathleen Lynch minister of state at the Department of Justice said it is “actively” working on proposals to allow fathers to share some of the statutory 26 weeks leave given to mothers. Another option being considered is allowing parents to “step in and out” of the 26 weeks leave, to allow them to share the time more equally. “We hope to have serious proposals prepared before end of 2014” says Lynch. – “in terms of the bill itself, we would be ensuring the power to decide on the parental leave is always vested in the mother.
The Justice Department has had discussions with interested parties such as employer’s representatives, women’s groups, and other government departments. She said many people had expressed concerns at the implications of introducing paternity leave, such as the cost for employers and reduction of maternity leave for women.
Children’s Minister, Frances Fitzgerald said she was in favour of increasing maternity leave to 52 weeks over a five year period. She also wants fathers to share in this leave. This would bring Ireland in line with Britain. There a woman is entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave while the father gets up to two weeks leave when the child is born and can also share up to 26 weeks of the mother’s leave when she returns to work. A Paternity Leave bill is before the Seanad at the moment.