Sunday 16 June 2019

Employers may curse drinks giant for raising the bar on dads' leave

Benefits: Guinness has a long history of perks for its staff – but other companies may resent the bar being raised on paternity leave. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Benefits: Guinness has a long history of perks for its staff – but other companies may resent the bar being raised on paternity leave. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Anne-Marie Walsh

Some employers may be cursing drinks giant Diageo for raising the bar on dads' leave.

It emerged during the week that workers at the makers of the black stuff will soon savour a top-of-the-range paternity entitlement of six months on full pay after welcoming a new arrival.

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Companies at the less generous end of the scale when it comes to paternity entitlements are now in serious danger of being named and shamed.

The publicity about the brewer's gold-plated benefits could put off prospective job candidates elsewhere. This is at a time when workers in general are in more limited supply.

And then there is the uncomfortable truth that they may be paying women more than men when they have children.

It doesn't look too good.

And it could look even worse if they don't end up smelling of roses when mandatory gender pay gap reporting becomes a reality in the not too distant future.

Dads who are already a bit envious of what their pals are getting after they welcome a newborn into their lives are bound to be taking note.

Since the Government rolled out a basic State-funded entitlement of two weeks' paid leave for men - at a rate of €245 a week - three years ago, it has been a mystery whether employers have chosen to boost this modest package.

Women, we know, get a State maternity payment for 26 weeks, and there is a general belief that most 'good' employers top them up to full pay.

But a ring around some well- known companies yesterday showed huge differences in the payouts. It turns out Aviva has been offering 18 weeks' full pay to male and female parents since November 2017.

Others - including the Government's male civil service workforce - are only getting two weeks' full pay.

"We allow all of our parents irrespective of gender to have parental leave of 18 weeks," said Aviva's chief people officer, Shaun McDonald.

"All of the parents, irrespective of gender, get full pay and irrespective of how they become parents, whether its birth, adoption or surrogacy."

Aviva doesn't have plans to boost the package on the back of Diageo's announcement because it is already market-leading in the sector, he says, but if that changes it will be reviewed.

He said 23 men and 87 women have availed of the benefit since its introduction.

Apart from promoting equality, he said it was a way to "differentiate them against competitors" when the jobs market is tight.

Competition for IT staff and actuaries is particularly stiff.

"We acquired Friends First last year and it had 300 staff who couldn't believe this was on offer," he said. "They had got two weeks' pay."

Google would not reveal what it pays, although sources said it is around 12 weeks on full pay for some staff. Ryanair and CRH did not respond.

A spokesperson for Employment Affairs Minister Regina Doherty said she believes the Diageo benefit is a "very progressive development".

The Government is making strides but there is still a big discrepancy between what it pays in terms of maternity and paternity benefits.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone's most recent childhood strategy pledges to give parents of newborns an extra entitlement to seven weeks' paid parental leave in their first year by 2021.

Most parents won't find these developments difficult watching and are bound to hope the focus moves beyond the first year of a child's life.

The Government is making a song and dance about extending parental leave from 18 to 26 weeks if you have under-12s.

But it's completely unpaid.

For most, this is probably unaffordable, given that making ends meet is more than likely the main reason they are working in the first place.

Irish Independent

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