Minister not in support of making paternity leave mandatory

Bonding with baby: Regina Doherty notes ‘worrying lack of fathers taking up payment’

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said there was a “worrying lack of fathers” taking up the paternity payment. File photograph: iStockPhoto

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said there was a “worrying lack of fathers” taking up the paternity payment. File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said she is not in favour of making paternity leave mandatory for fathers.

Ms Doherty said 20,000 fathers had taken up paid paternity leave since it was introduced last September, but there was a “worrying lack of fathers taking up the payment”.

Ms Doherty said her department is running a new campaign to encourage more fathers to take it.

The benefit, worth €235 per week, is available for a fortnight and can be taken up to 26 weeks following the birth of a child.

“We’re running a campaign to let people know exactly what it is, how easy it is to claim and how quickly and easy the payment will come through,” she said.

Culture issue

“The premise of the payment is to allow fathers to have that time at home when their baby is born... and yes there is a culture issue here, that in the main ... it isn’t historic that they would have done it... My job is to make sure people know it’s there,” Ms Doherty told Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1.

“The premise of the payment is to allow fathers to have that time at home when their baby is born. Not just to support the mother but to bond with the baby,” she said.

“There is a culture in our society that expects women to stay at home, that’s not the case any more. There are men who are desperate to stay at home with their children in the weeks and months after they are born - and as a society that is something we must help them achieve,” she said.

Ms Doherty said she is not ready to make the leave mandatory but is keen to get the information out there and take it in “baby steps”.

Bond with baby

“I personally wouldn’t be ready to go there yet. I think we should be encouraging people to recognise the value of staying at home and bonding with their baby,” she said.

Asked about plans to increase the figure of €235 per week in the Budget, Ms Doherty said there was not a huge amount of money available to be spent in this year’s budget.

“It’s the exact same payment that we give our mothers... if there’s any increases that are going to be considered for any of the social welfare payments, it will be done during the budgetary process,” she said.

The Government has previously stated it has no plans for legislation to force employers to give women full pay or to top up their welfare benefits when they take maternity leave.