I thank Senators for their support for and contributions to the Bill the last day and for supporting it today. I emphasise its importance in the context of the commitment of the Government and all Members to give children the best possible start in life and further equality and recognise the different types of family in Ireland.
Two issues arose. Senator Maria Byrne asked if was proposed to include in the Bill a provision to allow a father to take time off to accompany the partner or surrogate mother to antenatal appointments, as is the case in the United Kingdom. The Bill will not provide for time off to accompany an expectant mother to antenatal appointments. The objective of the Bill was always to meet the Government’s commitment in the last budget to provide for two weeks' paternity leave and benefit. Changes to existing family leave legislation would be well outside the scope of the Bill and would have required Government decisions for which there was simply no time, if the deadline of September was to be met. The proposed family leave Bill which the Government has approved and is being drafted will address all existing family leave legislation such as parental leave, carer's leave, maternity leave and adoptive leave and consolidate the legislation in one Act.
The Senator also asked if the individual taking paternity leave could be someone other than the biological father. I am very happy to be able to confirm that this is the case. The Bill creates an entitlement to paternity leave for a relevant parent who, in addition to being the father of the child, is also defined as the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant, as the case may be, of the mother of the child and, in the case of a child who is being adopted, the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant, as the case may be, of the adopting mother or sole male adopter, or a parent of the child under section 5 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 where the child is a donor-conceived child within the meaning of Part 2 of that Act. I hope my answer will satisfy the Senator.
I thank all Senators for their contributions the last day, their co-operation and constructive comments. I also thank the officials from both Departments who have worked very hard to bring the Bill to where it is today. This is groundbreaking legislation and we want to continue this equality work.