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The Role of Paternity Leave in Closing the Gender Wage Gap: A Father's Day Reflection

As many of us celebrate Father’s Day, we take this opportunity to reflect on the changing role of employers in supporting working fathers.

It’s essential that employers are aware of the basic leave types and payments that can be requested by fathers. Here, we look beyond statutory employee entitlements in Ireland to consider the wider benefits to both employers and employees of encouraging the use of the various leave entitlements by working fathers. We also see how we benchmark across Europe as well as analysing the impact of paternity leave on gender pay gaps. 


    What is the Law on Paternity Leave in Ireland?

    So, what is paternity leave in Ireland and how long is paternity leave in Ireland?

    Since its introduction in September 2016, Ireland’s paternity leave policy has offered fathers the opportunity to take two weeks off work within the first six months after their child’s birth. This leave can also be utilised in the case of adoption and in same-sex couples. 

    Paternity leave is available to fathers working in full-time, part-time, or casual employment. This leave comes with paternity benefit, provided the father has enough PRSI contributions. The benefit offers a weekly payment of €274 to both employed and self-employed people. When wondering how to apply for paternity leave and paternity benefit, a notice must be given four weeks in advance, or twelve weeks if self-employed, detailing the baby’s date of birth or due date. To qualify, the person must be the child’s biological father, the mother’s spouse, civil partner, or cohabitant or the parents of a donor-received child.


      Expanding Parental Benefit

      As well as paternity leave, there are other supports available to fathers and new parents. They can avail of the parents leave and benefit scheme, which provides up to seven weeks of paid leave at the same weekly rate of €274. To be eligible, again, a person must have enough PRSI contributions. This type of leave can be taken in blocks that must be at least one week before the child’s second birthday, or within the first two years of adopting a child. From August 2024, this leave will increase from seven to nine weeks.

      For fathers needing more time off, the parental leave scheme allows for a parent to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave for each eligible child. This leave must be taken before the child’s 12th birthday and is typically available after one year of employment. It can be taken as one continuous period or in blocks of at least six weeks. Part-time workers can avail of this leave on a pro-rata basis. For example, if someone works 50% of a normal week, they will receive 13 working weeks of Parental Leave.


        Impact of Paternal Leave on Gender pay Gap

        On the other side of this, women can face career setbacks due to extended periods of time off, perpetuating the gender pay gap.

        Recent research by The Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), analysing data across the OECD, found that countries offering more than six weeks of paid paternity leave have a gender wage gap that is 4% smaller than that in countries offering less than six weeks. This highlights the impact of parental leave policies on the gender pay gap. This is worth considering as organisations in Ireland with 250 or more employees are now obligated to report on their gender pay gaps. 

        Related article: Gender Pay Gap Reporting: What Does it Mean for Irish Employers


          Which Country has the Best Paternity Leave?

          Compared to other European countries, Ireland’s paternity leave policies lag behind some other countries. For instance, Spain provides employees with 16 weeks of fully paid paternity leave, equal to maternity leave, showing a more balanced approach. France offers 28 days leave, with one week being compulsory, while Italy mandates 10 days of paternity leave.


            Challenges, and the Role of Employers

            While employers are not forced to pay their employees during paternity leave, some may offer top-ups to match regular pay or provide additional time off. However, this varies by company and can lead to financial stress on families that are relying solely on the state benefit. According to the CSO Figures, in 2020, over 50% of fathers in employment did not claim paternity benefit.

            Similarly, for parent’s leave, recent news reports show that there is a disparity in the gender split of those taking up parent’s benefit. Of the 74,000 parent’s benefit claims awarded in 2022, 64% of the claimants were women and 36% were men.


              What Does the Future Hold?

              Encouraging men to take paternity leave not only supports family well-being, but it can also help attract and retain top talent and reduce gender pay gaps. Ensuring that policies such as these are put in place is the very minimum, but having the support of employers is vital. There is still lots of room for improvement and continuing to adapt policies will create a more inclusive society for current and future generations.


                Gender Pay Gap Reporting with SD Worx, formerly Intelligo

                At SD Worx, formerly Intelligo, we know how important gender pay gap reporting is to a business. We also know that employers are extremely busy, which is why we’ve put together a concise guide that includes guidance on:

                • Understanding: Gain insights into the root causes and implications of the gender pay gap.
                • Legal Compliance: Navigate the complex legal landscape surrounding gender pay reporting easily.
                • Effective Data Analysis: Learn how to collect and analyse data to identify gender pay disparities within your organisation.
                • Continuous Monitoring: Establish systems for ongoing evaluation to track progress and ensure accountability.

                You can download your free gender pay gap guide at the click of a button, and for further information on covering employee leave entitlements, talk to us today!