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Paternity leave policy ‘unfair to unmarried fathers’

The government may be forced to review its policy on paid paternity leave following a series of complaints it appears to be available only to fathers who either married to or in a civil union with their child’s mother.

The Social Insurance Services began accepting applications for paid paternity leave from the start of August and, 10 days in, some 320 applications were submitted.

There is no clear mention in the law about whether fathers who have no official union with the child’s mother are eligible or not.

However, applications for paid paternity leave must, among other documentation such as the child’s birth certificate, also be accompanied by certification of a marriage or civil union between the new baby’s parents.

Applicants who are not married or in a civil union have said they have until now been told they will be able to appeal the decision if their request is denied, Phileleftheros reported on Friday.

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An official source, meanwhile, said the Labour Ministry is expected to look into the complaints and make its position known shortly.

The spirit of the paid paternity leave law was to both improve equality between the sexes and also provide fathers with the opportunity to be at the side of their child’s mother after the birth.

The law, voted in by Parliament on July 14, provides for two weeks paid paternity leave to fathers including in the cases of surrogate births or the adoption of children aged up to 12.

However, the current approach appears to create inequality between fathers who are married or in civil unions with their child’s mother and those who are not but acknowledge the baby as their own.

The leave must be taken over two weeks consecutively and take place within 16 weeks of the week of the child’s birth or adoption.

As is the case with paid maternity leave, the state will pay fathers the equivalent of 72% of their usual weekly salary for the period.

Applicants must give their employer written notice of their intention to take the leave at least two weeks before they plan to be away.

The programme is expected to cost the state some €5 million per year.


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