Sunday 16 June 2019

Editorial: 'Diageo move on paternity leave is a game-changer'

It is not that modern living was engineered as a device to wage war on the family, but it can feel that way. Stock photo
It is not that modern living was engineered as a device to wage war on the family, but it can feel that way. Stock photo
Editorial

Editorial

It is not that modern living was engineered as a device to wage war on the family, but it can feel that way.

The 24/7 work culture, email and mobile phones have rendered the term 'family time' more aspirational than real.

Given the absolute necessity of both parents having to work in order to provide the bricks and mortar elements of a home - no longer even to own but to rent - quarrying out time to spend with the children has become something of a holy grail.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty got a scalding last month for telling dads to stop making excuses when it comes to minding the children. Her suggestion that money was not the reason for the low paternity leave take-up among fathers was equally jarring.

Amid fanfare, she committed to giving new mothers and fathers two paid weeks off.

The State will pay €245 a week to parents, which may be voluntarily topped up by private companies if the employee is on a higher salary.

But a recent survey found almost two-thirds of firms were not providing top-ups.

The €245 offer was understandably regarded as derisory, given the costs of running a home.

But the announcement by drinks group Diageo of an offer of 26 weeks of fully paid leave to new fathers in Ireland - matching the benefits it pays to new mothers - has the potential to be a game-changer for families.

Making ends meet is almost impossible when the ends keep moving.

Combining children and a career is a constant challenge. Keeping pace with property price rises and rent increases makes for difficult choices.

As outlined in this paper earlier this week, childcare is a critical concern.

Employers' organisation Ibec policy executive Kara McGann noted this week "despite all the very good work that has been done, we are still not meeting the needs fully".

"If it comes to one parent having to step out of the labour market, more often than not that falls to the female," she added.

There has never been so many women in the workplace, but when it comes to deciding which parent should take leave from work once a baby is born, more often than not it is the mother who is left with the role of full-time carer.

Therefore, the Diageo initiative has set a new standard in respect of equality and family support.

A study a few years ago by financial company Royal London revealed having a full-time homemaker would cost over €40,000 a year.

It found the average homemaker spends 15 hours a week cooking, 15 hours ferrying children around, and another 10 hours cleaning the house.

Then there's 25 hours of child-minding, two of gardening, and five hours of tutoring, plus another five hours on general maintenance around the house.

In these "equal" times, it seems a man or women's work is never done.

When it comes to the work/life balance, most of us seem to be in the red.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss