A new piece of legislation, approved by the Irish Cabinet last week, is set to resolve an anomaly that has prevented male same-sex couples from receiving adoptive leave and benefit to date.
The introduction of marriage equality in 2015 brought with it the legal right to adopt for same-sex married couples, and the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 granted unmarried couples the right to adopt a child together. However, a legal loophole arising at the time of the marriage referendum made it impossible for gay couples to receive the adoptive leave and benefit accessed by their straight counterparts.
The adoptive benefit is paid to parents to support them during a period spent away from work on adoptive leave. Currently, an employed adopting mother or single father is entitled to 24 weeks’ adoptive leave with the associated benefit.
The Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019, now approved by Cabinet, will close the legal loophole excluding gay couples from this support provided it is passed by the Oireachtas.
David Stanton, Minister of State at the Department of Justice, has called the proposals put forward in the Bill “the final steps needed to enable male same-sex couples to receive adoptive leave and benefit.”
“This is further progress towards ensuring equality for all families,” he said.
The Bill will also introduce two weeks’ paid parental leave for all employed or self-employed parents during their baby’s first year, starting this November. Parents who avail of the benefit will receive €245 per week, and there are plans for the paid leave to be incrementally extended up to seven weeks over the next three years.
Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said the “new benefit is non-transferable and is available on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis.”
“This, I hope, will help to incentivise fathers to take more time off work to care for their children than has been the case up to now,” she said. She expressed hopes that, by persuading fathers to spend more time at home, the Bill will “challenge the existing culture regarding work and gender.”
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