A Laois TD has backed an initiative to give fathers more time with their children during the first precious months of life, with new proposals before the government for parental leave to be split evenly between men and women.
Fianna Fáil has tabled the Parental Leave Bill 2013 and suggests that fathers be given the opportunity to share their partner’s 26 weeks of maternity leave.
Speaking to the Leinster Express, Laois/Offaly TD Sean Fleming said that the main reason for the bill is to give fathers more time at home with their children, although there is also an incentive for women to return to work earlier.
“In some households, the mothers can be the one in the job with the higher income, so in some cases it makes more sense for her to go back to the higher paying salary,” Dep Fleming said.
He said that there was no proposal to increase the amount of leave from 26 weeks, so there will be no extra cost to employers, and the leave will have to be split between partners within one 26-week block.
The issue was raised recently in the Seanad by Senator Mary White, who said the bill is part of a strategy to promote women entrepreneurs in an effort to create jobs.
However, while the senator emphasised the importance of job creation for women, Dep Fleming stressed that the bill is aimed at all families, not just those comprising at least one entrepreneur.
Minister of State Kathleen Lynch TD agreed that the State should have provision for paternity leave. However she said that maternity leave should remain vested in the mother, with the mother opting to share a part of the leave with the father.