paternity leave
Tricky stuff

Paternity leave

Dad-of-one Joe Griffin finds out about the new and improved paternity rights.

Ireland has long been lagging behind our EU neighbours when it comes to social policy, and paternity leave is no exception. However, fathers-to-be enjoyed some good news in 2016, with the arrival of increased paternity leave (Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016 ).

So what’s on offer?

As of the 30th September, 2016, new fathers are paid at a rate of €230 a week for two weeks after the birth of the child. This is the same as maternity benefit and based on the same PRSI contribution requirements. The legislation will also allow fathers to take the leave at any stage within 26 weeks of the birth. It gets better: This benefit will apply to over 250,000 fathers, including the self-employed.

Paternity leave, of course, offers myriad benefits to the parents, the child and society at large: Fathers get more time with the new arrival, the child gets to see Dad more, and the new mother gets more of a helping hand. On a larger scale, businesses will enjoy more flexibility and availability from working mothers, and shared parental leave means less sexism in hiring practices: If both parents take parental leave, employers might not make so many sexist hiring decisions.

paternity leave

This is a time to rejoice, so, as Ireland’s statutory paternity leave, which was introduced in January of 2016, is now in effect. Two weeks is not much in the grand scale of a child’s life, but this is an important milestone: It’s the first governmental acknowledgement of the importance of a father in a child’s early days. And as such, it’s the first step in a journey that might lead us to more paternal leave and a more equal perception for genders in the workplace.

Still, Ireland has some catching up to do compared to other European countries. Scandinavia would be a fine role model when it comes to paternal leave. Take Sweden, for example, where parents can take up to sixteen months of leave, paid up to 80% of salary (with a cap of €4,000 per month) and two of those months are available to dads, with talk of a third month on the way. Our friends in Spain do quite well too, with two weeks of full-pay paternity leave on offer.

Other countries have the benefits in place, but for cultural reasons don’t make the most of it: For instance, despite a reasonably generous government policy, fewer than 3% of Japanese fathers take paternity leave. But at least Irish fathers are better off than their American counterparts: Stateside parents aren’t legally entitled to any paid parental leave. Irish fathers have had a small breakthrough, with more progress to be made incrementally in years to come. Baby steps!

Paid leave

Some employers, (for example, the civil service), do provide a period of paid leave from work for male employees following the birth or adoption of their child. Fathers employed in the civil service are entitled to a period of special (paternal) leave of three days with pay in respect of children born on or after 1 January, 2000 or for children adopted after 1 January 2000. The employee usually applies for this leave in writing before the birth or adoption.

paternity leave

Arrangements where employers provide this type of leave following the birth or adoption of a child are the result of negotiation and agreement reached between the employer and employee. These arrangements are not covered by employment law so if an employer agrees to provide time off to an employee as paternal leave for a specified period (either with or without pay), it is entirely discretionary.

Paid parental leave While male employees are not entitled under law to either paid or unpaid paternity leave, they may be entitled to parental leave. Parental leave entitles both parents who qualify to take a period of up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave from employment in respect of children up to 8 years of age.

For further information:

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Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.