Ireland: Baby Steps Towards Sharing The Caring

Family-friendly working is no longer solely an issue for a firm's HR department, as Diageo's move on the matter last week shows. But there is still a long way to go.

Fathers have been relatively invisible in the Irish workplace in their capacity as parents and carers until very recently, with this invisibility particularly marked by the absence of any significant statutory paid time off.

This was in contrast to other European countries, where fathers can enjoy up to 14 weeks of paid parental leave, as well as the OECD countries where the average is 6.2 weeks of paid parental leave for fathers. Dads in Ireland have some road to travel to catch up, but step-by-step change is on the way.

Last week, the news that Diageo is introducing 26 weeks' fully paid leave to new fathers received widespread coverage. What was striking about this initiative was not just the extent of the paid leave, but how it was communicated. The news did not originate from an internal HR document. Instead, the chief executive of Diageo, Ivan Menezes, announced the launch of what he termed an "ambitious family leave policy" at an investor conference in New York.

The move, he said, was about "ensuring women and men are supported to have time with their new baby regardless of where they live and work", and about creating "a fully inclusive and diverse workforce".

While few Irish businesses will be in a position to replicate Diageo's move, Menezes' decision to put this new policy front and centre when he was addressing investors shows that this issue is set to become even more topical in the future.

Progress in Ireland

Until paid paternity leave was introduced in 2016, the only statutory paid leave from the workplace which gave a nod to a father's role in relation to the care of his children was force majeure leave, which is only available when a genuine emergency arises. Even that leave is not specifically designed for the care of children in the ordinary course of events.

Things shifted slightly in 2016. Fathers, for the first time, were entitled to take up to two weeks of paid leave at a statutory rate of €245 per week in the first six months after their child was born or adopted.

It sounds good, but did it work? The actual uptake of paid paternity leave has been moderate at best. It is reported that around 55,000 fathers have availed of paternity leave since it was introduced, estimated to be about 40 per cent of eligible fathers. More recent figures for 2017 suggest that the uptake has dropped to about 30 per cent, which is disappointing.

Clearly more needs to be done to give fathers permission to take leave and step out of their careers temporarily to care for young children.

Use it or lose it

Extending periods of paid parental leave for both parents on a 'use it or lose it' basis is a very good start. From November 2019, mothers and fathers will have up to two weeks of additional paid parental leave, and that will increase to seven weeks by 2021.

Parents must take the leave within 12 months of the child's birth, and both are eligible for payment of up to €245 per week. In effect, it is a type of 'infant parental leave' the government hopes will encourage new fathers, in particular, to take time out to care for newborns. It is a new entitlement which is added onto existing maternity and paternity leave entitlements.

The proposals are not without controversy. Public sector employers are expected to pay full salary for mothers and fathers availing of this new leave, and this has triggered disquiet over how this will be paid for.

Private sector employers are not obliged to top up new paid parental leave, and indicators to date suggest that they will be slow to do so. Practice varies across industries and sectors, but a recent study revealed that only a third of employers top up the recently introduced paternity pay.

Leave boost

Parental leave entitlements also received a boost recently. Currently, parents can take up to 18 weeks of parental leave per child until the child reaches the age of eight. But new laws give parents the right to take up to 22 weeks' parental leave each from September 2019, and then 26 weeks of leave each from September 2020 until the child is 12.

Parents who have not availed of any of their current 18 weeks entitlement when the new law takes effect, and whose children are already aged over eight, can still take up to 18 weeks of leave.

It is important to remember that parents of children with chronic conditions or disabilities still have an entitlement to take parental leave until the child is aged 16. Measures are being taken to ensure that same-sex parents can also avail of these boosted leave entitlements.

A cultural shift?

Will the increased leave available to fathers foster a greater appreciation of the current difficulties for women in reintegrating after maternity and/or parental leave? Encouraging a cultural shift towards an acceptance that fathers may now also take leave from their jobs and careers to care for young children for extended periods may level the playing field somewhat.

Will this help develop a pattern whereby our male colleagues are now also out of sight for extended periods, handing over clients, projects, tasks and responsibilities (to both their male and female colleagues) and then dealing with the challenges of reintegration after a break?

The existing two-week paternity leave period is no different to the period of time workers typically take for a summer holiday. A longer break on paternity and parental leave means that men as well as women will experience the transition, the exit and the readjustment to the workplace on re-entry after a long break.

The anxiety and concern that women experience on returning after maternity leave may become a shared experience, and may also help shape policy to make workplaces more family friendly.

But can we do more? While these are baby steps in every sense, they may not go far enough to really drive a change in attitudes. Should we take a giant step forward and allow parents to share some of the basic and additional maternity leave – effectively letting parents decide between themselves who takes the leave, and for how long?

Britain introduced laws in 2015 for shared parental leave. Parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of paid leave in the first year after their child is born.

There have been teething problems, including a low uptake of shared leave because, it is reported, of the financial consequences. Britain is significantly ahead of Ireland in attempting to tackle this issue, but the key to unlocking it seems to lie in making the leave period more culturally acceptable as well as financially viable.

Computer says no

Can fathers insist on taking time off to care for their young children? Yes, in some situations.

The law permits the father to take the new paid paternity leave at any time within the first six months of the child's birth, provided that the correct notification is given to the employer four weeks in advance of the birth, or the placement in the case of an adoption. The leave must be taken in a block of two weeks.

The situation is less flexible in relation to parental leave, and the father will need to agree any bespoke parental leave arrangements.

For example, the law still provides that parental leave is not transferable between the parents unless they work for the same employer, and the employer consents to the transfer. Further, parents must generally have 12 months' service with the employer before they are eligible to take leave.

Parental leave must be taken in one continuous block or in separate blocks of not less than six weeks unless agreed otherwise with the employer. While more suitable arrangements can always be agreed on between the parties, ultimately it is still up to the employer whether the employee can take the parental leave in a staggered fashion or in smaller blocks (such as one day per week).

An employer may agree on a shorter block of, say, six weeks' leave, but can then insist that there be a break of ten weeks before another block of leave is taken. An employer can also refuse to grant parental leave during a particular period where it would have a substantial adverse effect on the business. If that happens, the employee has the right to take the leave at an agreed time within six months.

It is not all one-sided. Employees are protected from penalisation in connection with making a request for or using their parental leave entitlements. Employees also have some statutory leverage to seek more agile working arrangements.

Under the parental leave laws, employees can request reduced working hours and flexible working arrangements after a period of parental leave, but the employer is not obliged to grant these requests. A non-binding code of practice on access to part-time work guides employers towards giving reasonable consideration to a request for access to part-time work.

In short, there is enough to get a conversation started on more flexible working, but in truth a lot of the real change can only be delivered in partnership with the employer. Increasingly, employers recognise this and are working hard to embed agile and flexible working practices to attract and retain their top talent, regardless of gender.

Originally published by The Sunday Business Post, May 26, 2019.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Ronan Daly Jermyn
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Ronan Daly Jermyn
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions