Ireland must learn from European mistakes with new paternity leave – Richmond

-   Senator Neale Richmond

Speaking during a Seanad debate on social protection this week, Fine Gael Dublin Rathdown Senator, Neale Richmond, has said that Ireland must learn from European mistakes with our new paternity leave laws, and ensure that fathers here in Ireland take up the opportunity.

“There are numerous examples across Europe where men do not avail of their rights to paternity leave and I do not want to see Ireland become yet another example of this.

“In Germany only 20% of fathers take up the opportunity of paternity leave. In the Czech Republic, men are entitled to take as much parental leave as women are. However, despite this fact, men only represent 1.8% of parental leave-takers.

“The take-up rate among fathers in Estonia has been steadily increasing since 2008, when a new compensation scheme was introduced. Men accounted for 2% of the parental leave then. The latest data from 2013 still only showed a rate of 6.5%.

“In the Netherlands less than 10% of fathers took paternity leave in 2001, by 2013 this had noticeably increased to 24%.  We must examine what they are doing in the Netherlands to improve the figures in recent years.

“It is really important that men are encouraged to take up paternity leave here in Ireland. Very often women have to put their careers on hold or work part-time to take care of their children, while men continue to work full time and progress in their careers. Even when men have showed a genuine interest in taking parental leave, the lack of flexible and practical policies has made it next to impossible for some to combine it with their work-life balance.

“For many years Ireland has lagged behind most other European countries in the area of paternity leave and while I welcome the new legislation, and look forward to working on it in the Seanad, it will only be a success if new Dads actually make full use of it. Introducing the Leave in itself is not good enough and I am encouraged that Minister Varadkar has undertaken to compliment the new move with a public interest campaign informing Dads about the scheme and most importantly encouraging them to take part.” 

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