Diageo to offer 26 weeks paid leave to new Irish fathers

Drinks giant signals ‘bold’ move to equal paternity and maternity benefits in many markets

New fathers can take 26 weeks paid paternity leave at the Guinness maker in several markets including Ireland. Photograph: Luke MacGregor / Reuters.

Drinks giant Diageo is introducing 26 weeks fully paid leave to new fathers in Ireland and many of the markets in which it operates, matching the benefits it pays to new mothers.

The company behind Guinness, Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker announced last month that it would offer the same maternity and paternity entitlements to 4,500 employees in Britain.

It has now extended its “ambitious new family leave policy” to Ireland, North America, Russia, Australia, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Colombia and Venezuela, among others.

Commitment to an inclusive workforce: Irishwoman Mairéad Nayager, global chief HR officer of Diageo. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

A minimum of four weeks’ paternity leave on a full rate of pay will be offered in other markets, while female employees in all markets will be offered a minimum of 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave.


The striking new global policy was announced today by Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes at an investor conference in New York.

The move means that from July 1st about 1,100 employees in Ireland will be offered 26 weeks fully paid parental leave, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation of how they become parents, whether it is by birth, adoption or surrogacy.

Diageo’s benefits for fathers are now substantially better than those typically offered by other companies. Many employers also pay mothers nothing or less than their full rate of pay during maternity leave.

The company said it hoped the policy would allow employees to “focus on the joy of raising a young family, while continuing to thrive at work”, ensuring that both men and women can have time with their new baby.

“We are committed to creating a fully inclusive and diverse workforce and we strongly believe that businesses play a significant role in shaping the future of society,” said Mairéad Nayager, Diageo’s chief HR officer.

“Global businesses like Diageo must make bold moves on policies and the environments in which their employees work to ensure that the progress people deserve happens.”

Gender equality

Diageo Ireland country director Oliver Loomes said the announcement was "a significant step" for the company and part of its mission to support gender equality in the workplace.

Diageo, which also counts Baileys, Captain Morgan and Tanqueray among its brands, employs more than 30,000 people in 180 countries. In 2018, it was named by Thomson Reuters as the fourth most inclusive and diverse company in the world.

The business, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange, also has an above-average record on equality at the most senior levels. Some 40 per cent of its executive committee and 44 per cent of its board of directors are women.

Irish employers are not obliged by law to pay people on either maternity or paternity leave.

New mothers are entitled to 26 weeks leave from work, however only a minority of employers offer full pay during this period. If their employer has no policy of paid maternity, the only payment they may be eligible for is the State’s maternity benefit at the standard rate of €245 a week. Mothers are also entitled to a further 16 weeks of leave, where no State maternity benefit is paid.

New fathers are currently entitled to two weeks of leave and can qualify for a State payment, also at a rate of €245 per week.

Figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection from earlier this year suggested only about 40 per cent of new fathers were availing of the scheme.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics