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Mums may be allowed share maternity leave

NEW mums may soon be able to share part of their maternity leave entitlement with their partners under legislation being considered by the Government.

The Department of Justice is working on a scheme to allow fathers to receive two weeks of the statutory 26 weeks' leave, according to minister of state Kathleen Lynch.

"We intend to have serious proposals prepared before the end of the year," she said.

"In terms of the bill itself, we would be ensuring the power to decide on the parental leave is always vested in the mother."

However, she said that there were "a lot of complicating factors need to be worked out".

"For example, with the idea of allowing both parents to step in and out of leave, the Department of Social Protection says that would be very difficult to manage, in terms of payments," Ms Lynch explained.

Experts have already recommended to Childrens' Minister Frances Fitzgerald that the government should allow partners to share leave. But this could only come into play when paid leave is extended to a full year.

PROPOSALS

In Britain a woman is entitled to 52 weeks' maternity leave, while a father gets up to two weeks when the child is born.

The couple can then transfer up to 26 weeks of the leave to the father if the mum decides to return to work.

Ms Lynch said that the Government is looking at introducing parental leave as part of the current 26-week entitlement – and not in addition to it.

"Before we move to extend maternity leave, we have to deal with the paternity leave issue," she said.

She added that the bill would need a lot of amendments before it came close to being published.

She said that several interest groups have already identified barriers to paternity leave – such as employers' representative groups and women's groups.

They point out the high cost implications and also the knock-on effect it would have on a mothers' entitlements.

CMURPHY@HERALD.IE


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