THE SEANAD TODAY debated a bill proposed by Fianna Fáil Senator Mary White, which would allow the father of a newborn baby to share in the 26 weeks maternity leave currently given to women under Irish law.
Under the bill, titled the ‘Parental Leave Bill 2013,’ a woman would be allowed to transfer a portion of her maternity leave and benefits to the father of the child.
Under current law, only parents who work for the same company can request to share their leave.
During the Seanad debate, Senator White said that the responsibility for child rearing in Ireland rests “almost entirely with women” and that the proposed legislation would offer fathers a “more hands-on opportunity” after the birth of a child.
The bill is part of a Fianna Fáil strategy aimed at promoting women entrepreneurs in an effort to create jobs.
Flexibility in the parental leave system would allow women to devote more time to their enterprises while knowing that their partner could be at home with the newborn child, White said.
White, who is the co-founder of Lir Chocolates, said she drew on her own experience as a businesswoman when drafting the new bill.
“I know what the difficulties are,” she said, and called women “the biggest untapped source of enterprise” in Ireland.
“We are not being competitive as a country if we don’t use the brains of half the population – the women,” White added.
International studies show women lagging behind their male counterparts in entrepreneurship.
Ireland reflects that trend, with women early stage entrepreneurs in Ireland outnumbered 2.5 times to 1 by men.
During the debate, concerns were raised about whether the bill would allow the same rights for same-sex parents of newborn or adopted children, should the legislation make it to committee stage in the coming months.