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'It's about a culture change': New welfare payment which could benefit up to 60,000 parents announced

Details of the Parental Leave scheme were announced this morning.

A NEW WELFARE payment which will benefit up to 60,000 new parents who are employed or self-employed is set to come into effect from November.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty announced details of the Parental Leave scheme this morning.

Under the scheme, new parents will each receive two weeks’ paid leave at a rate of €245 per week in addition to existing entitlements such as Maternity and Paternity Leave.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will pay the benefit, and individual employers can decide if they will provide a ‘top-up’ payment to the salary level of employees.

The benefit is non-transferable, a move designed to encourage more new fathers to stay at home with their children during the first twelve months after they are born.

The Government also intends to incrementally increase the benefit up to seven weeks’ leave by 2021.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is currently liaising with the Department of Justice to ensure new legislation is in place for introduction of the benefit in November.

Speaking about the scheme today, Doherty said it would give children the opportunity to spend more time with both parents during the first year of their lives.

She also said it would extend the leave benefits available to fathers, following the introduction of Paternity Leave.

“What we’re trying to do is have a culture change,” the Minister told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1.

“Home rearing has become predominantly associated with women. We need to change that culture…

“It will affect the gender pay gap and it will affect the gender discrimination that occurs in the workplace.”

However, Neil McDonald of the Irish SME Association claimed that small businesses in particular would be hit by the introduction of the new benefit.

“The likelihood is they’re not going to be able to afford it,” he told the same programme.”

“Small enterprise is already losing power to the State sector and to foreign multinationals where wage levels are far higher.

“This is likely to present a great many of them with a real difficulty in meeting this entitlement.” 

However, Doherty said the payment was being introduced at a time of full employment in Ireland, adding that the largest cohort of unemployed people were over 55.

“If anybody wants to look for somebody who’s more mature, there’s plenty of people out there who are ready and available for work,” she said.

The Parental Leave and Benefit Bill, which will see the introduction of the payment, will also introduce new legislation to allow male same-sex couples to receive adoptive leave and benefits.

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