It’s incredible to think that paternity leave legislation only came into force in Ireland in September 2016. The legislation states that fathers are entitled to two weeks’ state-funded paternity leave, provided they have the correct level of PRSI contributions. Prior to September 2016, it was left to the employer to decide whether, and how much, paternity leave would be granted. Often no paternity leave was given at all.

Whilst fathers can get a minimal payment from the state in line with their PRSI contributions, there is still no obligation on employers to provide paternity pay. This matches the current legislation regarding maternity leave. The lack of paid paternity leave may explain why in 2018, with 61,000 births in Ireland, only 24,000 fathers took their paternity leave (according to the Department of Social Protection).

The European Commission published a report on Paternity and Parental Leave policies across the European Union. This 2018 study found that a major challenge in take-up of paternity leave, where it was available, was the low pay on offer. In Ireland, for example, statutory paternity leave is offered at only about 20% of average earnings, whereas in Luxembourg, fathers are entitled to 100% of average earnings. While we are behind some of our European counterparts, Ireland is miles ahead of the US, where there is no statutory entitlement to paid leave, for mothers or for fathers (except for some states with their own legislation).

A secondary reason for low uptake was cultural norms and perceptions regarding gender roles. This gender stereotyping is becoming less prevalent, and we now recognize that both parents play vital roles in the rearing of children.

As the workload for actuaries continues to increase, the need for “work-life balance” and “family balance” is hugely important. Some progressive insurance employers have recognized that their actuaries want paid paternity leave as much as they need paid maternity leave, and it’s been great to see its introduction. The levels we have seen have varied from 2 weeks to 16 weeks on full pay, dependent on level of service. This is an excellent recruitment and retention strategy for employers where actuaries play a crucial role in their businesses. For a market where actuarial requirements are increasing, it is vital that employers look at ways of retaining actuarial talent. These benefits are worth much more than the financial cost of their implementation.

We find this an interesting topic. We welcome all thoughts on your experience around the evolution of paternity leave for actuaries. Please feel from to send these to Jacqui van Teutem at Jacqui.vanteutem@raretec.ie.

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