Adoptive benefit to be paid to gay couples under new law

Legal anomaly left male same-sex adoptive parents unable to claim State benefit

Ministers last week consented to the change, which will seek to resolve the issue that arose after the referendum approving same-sex marriage was passed in 2015. File Photograph: Getty

Ministers last week consented to the change, which will seek to resolve the issue that arose after the referendum approving same-sex marriage was passed in 2015. File Photograph: Getty

 

An anomaly in the law that prevented male same-sex couples from receiving adoptive leave and benefit is set to be resolved by legislation that has been approved by the Cabinet.

Ministers last week consented to the change, which will seek to resolve the issue that arose after the referendum approving same-sex marriage was passed in 2015 and has since been raised in the Dáil by Government and Opposition TDs.

Adoptive benefit is paid to parents to support them during a period of adoptive leave. Currently, an employed adopting mother or a single father is entitled to 24 weeks’ adoptive leave and the associated benefit.

The Cabinet last week approved the general scheme of the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019, which gives effect to previous announcements on parental leave and will also close the adoptive leave legal loophole if passed through the Oireachtas.

David Stanton, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, said the proposals are “the final steps needed to enable male same-sex couples to receive adoptive leave and benefit”.

“This is further progress towards ensuring equality for all families,” he said, adding that he hoped that colleagues on all sides of the Dáil and Seanad would work to implement it.

Parental leave

The Bill also gives effect to an announcement in last year’s budget that parents will be able to avail of two weeks’ parental leave and benefit each during the first year of their baby’s life.

The change will take effect from November and is part of a plan to be rolled out over the next three years to allow both parents benefit from seven weeks’ leave each year.

The Department of Social Protection will pay the parental benefit at the same rate as maternity and paternity benefit, which is €245 per week. Individual employers can then decide if they want to provide a “top up” payment to bring the benefit up to an employee’s salary level.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the “new benefit is non-transferable and is available on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis”.

“This, I hope, will help to incentivise fathers to take more time off work to care for their children than has been the case up to now,” she said, adding that it could help to “challenge the existing culture regarding work and gender”.