Two weeks of paid paternity leave for self-employed dads

Plumbers, doctors and business owners now entitled to €230 a week under benefits scheme for fathers

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar Photo: Damien Eagers

Philip Ryan

Self-employed doctors, dentists and small business owners, along with tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians, are for the first-time to be entitled to state-funded paid paternity leave.

More than 250,000 self-employed fathers will be able to take two weeks off work and receive €230 a week from the Government once radical new paternity legislation is enacted in September.

Self-employed women already receive maternity benefit but there is currently no payment for fathers.

Self-employed men can take unpaid leave from work once their child is born but most do not take time off as they are their own boss and receive no support from the State.

Last year, the coalition announced plans in the budget to introduce paternity leave for working fathers but it was expected this would be available to employees rather than employers or the self-employed.

However, it has now been confirmed that the paternity scheme will be available to all working fathers, including sole traders and small business owners.

And last Friday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced plans to introduce a further two years of shared paternal leave, which can be availed by fathers and mothers, in next year's Budget.

This could see self-employed fathers who are barbers, brick layers or auctioneers avail of up to four weeks' paid paternity leave by the end of next year.

The new paternity payment scheme is among a suite of measures being examined by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar which are aimed at bridging the pay gap between PRSI workers and the self-employed.

Mr Varadkar told the Sunday Independent "it's great to be able to do something for dads" as parenting "is changing and fathers are more and more involved in raising their children".

"I am also delighted to be in a position to extend paid paternity leave to self-employed fathers for the first time," he added.

"Eighty per cent of the self-employed are male and have often been overlooked. This is the first of a suite of benefits I plan to extend to the self-employed, both women and men, during my term of office as Minister for Social Protection."

Cabinet will sign off on a package of paternity measures this week which will include two weeks of paternity leave.

The legislation is being overseen by Mr Varadkar and Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who is also the Minister for Justice.

Earlier this week, Mr Varadkar outlined plans to provide extra support to the self-employed by giving them more benefits in return for the PRSI that they pay.

Self-employed people do not have access to many of the benefits which are available to other employees and the Government hopes to change this.