Bank offers range of leave to parents


Bank of Ireland is one example of a company that includes paid paternity leave as part of its range of family-friendly employment policies, writes Laura Slattery

Employees with one year's service receive one week's paid paternity leave, which can be taken up to four weeks after the birth or homecoming of the child. The leave also applies in the case of adoption.

In the case of statutory maternity leave, the State pays mothers a benefit for 18 weeks.

The rate is calculated by dividing your gross income in the previous tax year by the number of weeks you actually worked in that year - 70 per cent of this amount is payable weekly, subject to a minimum payment of €135.60 and a maximum payment of €232.40. Bank of Ireland tops up the first 14 weeks of this benefit to full salary.

All employees in Ireland are entitled to a further eight weeks unpaid maternity leave, making 26 weeks in total. The bank allows up to three months' unpaid leave following this period and employees do not have to fulfil any service requirement to avail of it.

At Bank of Ireland, the 14-week statutory parental leave can be taken in a continuous period or, with the agreement of the bank and the employee, in separate blocks or by working reduced hours to the limit of 14 weeks.

The bank also offers additional parental leave to employees. An employee who has availed of statutory parental leave is entitled to unpaid leave of up to 12 months, including the statutory period, for children up to the age of eight.

One employee who has benefited from Bank of Ireland's policy on paternity leave is John Harkin, who works in customer service administration in its Mainguard Street branch in Galway.

"There is a lot of pressure, especially with the first child, but being able to take paternity leave and spend time at home with my wife and the new baby really takes that pressure off," says Mr Harkin, who took a week's leave after the birth of each of his three children.

Last year, Mr Harkin also availed of his statutory entitlement to 14 weeks' unpaid parental leave from July to October, and used part of his annual leave to extend the amount of time off until the beginning of November.

"My wife was pregnant with our third child, due in September, and we were building a new house. It was very hard running around trying to organise everything and there were two young toddlers to look after.

"With the parental leave, there was a lot more time to get the house ready for us to live in," says Mr Harkin.

"The summer months are a busy time for the bank, but there were absolutely no problems in getting the time off," he says.

He applied six months in advance just in case, knowing that under the legislation employers have the right to postpone applications for parental leave by that amount of time if they can prove it will have an adverse effect on their business.

Given that he has two other young children, Mr Harkin will be entitled to apply for a further two periods of 14 weeks parental leave.

But he says he is unlikely to avail of that as long as it remains unpaid. "I could justify it last year, but I'm not sure I could afford to do it again," he says.