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As shared maternity leave and benefit bill proposed - we reveal what parents currently get and how Ireland compares to other countries
McDonald, Leah
Publication Date: 
14 Jul 2018


A NEW law allowing parents to share the mother’s 26 weeks of paid maternity leave has been proposed.

Fianna Fail introduced the Shared Maternity Leave and Benefit Bill to the Dail, which is set to be debated in the autumn.

It’s understood that the bill, sponsored by TD for Kildare South Fiona O’Loughlin and TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers, has been put forward in a bid to tackle what the party has described as “very restrictive” maternity leave rules.

Currently, mothers are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave and an additional 16 weeks’ unpaid leave.

Parents other than the mother of the child, meanwhile, are entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave.

The new bill proposes allowing parents to share the initial maternity leave of 26 weeks in a way that ‘works best for them’.

The party also argues that the bill will not create any additional cost to the Exchequer as it simply allows parents to split existing benefits.

Kildare South TD Fiona O’Louhglin explained: “The current maternity leave mechanism is very restrictive, entitling mothers to the full 26 weeks of paid leave, while fathers are only permitted to two weeks paternity leave.

“This leaves no scope for the father to extend his leave unless he takes it out of his annual leave allocation.

“In some cases, it may make more sense for parents to split the maternity leave more evenly.

“Some companies may allow for more generous maternity leave arrangements than others, in which case, it may be more financially beneficial for the father to take the leave.”

Following its introduction at first stage on Thursday afternoon, the bill will now proceed with a second stage Dáil debate after summer recess.

Below Leah McDonald looks at what men and women are entitled to here and how we compare to other countries when it comes to paternity leave.

What mums get

Expectant mums are currently entitled 26 weeks’ maternity leave together with 16 weeks’ additional unpaid maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave.

Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, at least 2 weeks have to be taken before the end of the week of your baby’s expected birth and at least 4 weeks after.

An entitlement to pay and superannuation during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment.

Employers are not obliged to pay women who are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection if you have sufficient PRSI contributions.

Mums are entitled to take up to a further 16 weeks’ additional maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave.

This period is not covered by Maternity Benefit, nor is your employer obliged, unless otherwise agreed, to make any payment during this period.

What dads get 

Since September 2016, fathers can apply for two weeks paternity leave for the first time in Ireland.

The leave can be taken at any point within 28 weeks of the birth or adoption of a child, and the two weeks must be taken together.

Dads must give four weeks’ notice – in writing – to their employer indicating their intention to take the leave. However, this notice may not apply in the event of a premature birth.

As with maternity leave, paternity leave should not affect any employment rights.

At €230 a week, the pay for fathers is the same rate of pay for statutory maternity leave. As with maternity leave, applicants will need the requisite PRSI stamps to be entitled to it.

The benefit is paid into fathers’ bank accounts, or it can be paid to an employer, if they are willing to top up the payment.

Some employers will continue to pay an employee while the employee is on Paternity Leave. In such cases, the employer will require the employee to have any Paternity Benefit be paid to them. Dads are advised to check their contract to see what applies to them.

Ministers agreed a longer time period in which parents can avail of the leave, and are considering measures to force fathers to take time off after a child’s birth.

At a recent Government meeting, the Cabinet decided against increasing paid maternity benefit, which stands at 26 weeks, or paternity benefit, which is currently two weeks.

Instead there will be a focus on introducing a paid parental scheme, which would be available to both parents and would reach 18 weeks over time.

How we compare to other countries

New parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80pc of their normal pay.

Dads get 90 paid paternity days reserved for them to promote bonding between father and child.

Norway’s system is flexible and generous. Dads can take between zero and 10 weeks depending on their wives’ income, while mothers can take 35 weeks at full pay or 45 weeks at 80% pay.

Together, parents can receive an additional 46 weeks at full pay or 56 weeks at 80pc of their income.

Parents in Iceland can split their nine months of post-childbirth leave between them.

New mums get three months, new dads get three months, and then it’s up to the couple to decide how they’ll split the remaining three months. Each parent receives 80pc of their salary while on leave.

Fathers in Finland are granted eight weeks of paid leave, while both parents can split the 23 weeks of leave split between pregnancy and child-rearing. 

Entered Date: 
16 Jul 2018
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