More than 1,700 Cork dads have taken up the offer of two-weeks paid paternity leave following the birth of children in the first six months of this year.
Figures supplied to The Echo by the Department of Social Protection show numbers availing of the leave are beginning to steady with 2019 trends set to be similar to 2018, following a dip between 2017 and last year.
The most popular month so far for fathers to spend time at home in Cork has been May with 338 successful applications processed. January (328) and February (320) also proved popular but there are notable dips in March and April figures.
The Department recently launched a digital and social media campaign to promote the mywelfare.ie online application service for schemes that support families with young children: maternity benefit, paternity benefit, and the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA).
Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said earlier this year that she was encouraged by the numbers of fathers opting to take leave. Plans are in place to increase paid paternity leave to four weeks for each child later this year.
“This is not just good for dads but improves the quality of life for all the family. I would encourage working parents, both employees and self-employed who are expecting or adopting a new baby to avail of their PRSI and to take their paternity leave. This is just one of the supports that this Government has introduced for parents of young children," said the Minister.
“The first 12 months of life are incredibly formative for a child and the benefit of allowing parents greater time with a new baby will be beneficial to individual children, families and society as a whole,” Minister Doherty added.
The scheme has been criticised in some quarters as it is entirely at the discretion of employers to top up their employee’s pay in line with normal salary levels, potentially leading to many fathers avoiding the scheme.
Ireland is currently one of only six countries in the EU where employers are not required to top up payments to bring applicants up to their normal level of pay during their paternity leave.
Dads are also entitled to take 18 weeks of unpaid paternity leave, which will rise to 22 weeks from September 1.