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Parental Leave – How Employers Deal With Working Parents

working parents

There’s been a lot of talk from government quarters of additional supports for parents. With less than three months to go until the government delivers a pre-election budget, there’s a lot of speculation already on what’s likely to feature in the package of tax and spending measures.

 

To put some context on the financial challenge that parents face, consider this: it costs more than €105,000 to raise a child until their 21st birthday, and parents are forking out more than €4,000 per year on childcare, according to a study published by Laya Life earlier this month.

 

The report, which was prepared by an interdepartmental group established by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly, recommended the introduction of paid parental leave for parents of children under one as an extension to existing maternity benefit provision.

 

“There was a desire for extended paid maternity leave and the introduction of shared parental leave,” the report said, in reference to the consultation that framed its findings. It added that a large number of respondents had proposed that “maternity leave be extended to the recommended minimum standard of 12 months. Likewise, greater provision of paternity leave was desired by many”.

 

As a result, the report recommended that additional paid parental leave, which can be taken by either parent, be introduced to immediately follow the existing period of paid maternity leave.

 

How employers deal with working parents comes down to company policy, but in some sectors, where finding staff is hard, better benefits can be used as a bargaining chip. According to Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig, director of Sigmar Recruitment, employers in certain areas are fighting with rivals to attract skilled staff.

 

Mac Giolla Phádraig said that in certain sectors were skilled employees were in high demand – such as specific niches of the tech sector – companies were keen to get it right on benefits to attract staff.

 

“What makes a company competitive? That’s key when it comes to benefits,” he said. “Some of the US tech companies, for example, come to Ireland to scale, with money to spend and the acquisition of talent is key to that strategy.”

 

Given the competitive landscape, companies are looking to “go above and beyond” when devising a benefits package for staff. “The free canteen, the gym membership and so on: to an extent that is all expected now in certain sectors,” he said.“Now you hear of companies offering onsite dentists and healthcare, subsidised hairdressers and so on.”

 

Mac Giolla Phádraig said that some companies are now looking to align their benefits with what employees value, giving rise to an increased focus on work-life balance and family friendly policies.

 

The issue of benefits such as paternity leave is a tricky one, according to Mac Giolla Phádraig. “It’s a matter of company policy,” he said. “Some companies will give two days of paid paternity leave, others will give two weeks. Two weeks would be seen as attractive.”

 

Fathers in Ireland do not – for now – have a statutory entitlement to paternity leave. However, as Mac Giolla Phádraig indicated, some employers will provide for a number of days of paid paternity leave for staff on the birth of their child.

Posted by Sunday Business Post on 7 December 2017

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