Few fathers taking paternity leave due to the cost, experts claim

Just over 12,000 fathers looked for time off from work last year

Childcare experts claim fathers are not taking paternity leave because they cannot afford it.

The latest statistics show less than one-in-five new fathers are availing of social welfare payments to cover the birth of a new baby.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show there were over 63,000 babies born last year, but just over 12,000 fathers looked for time off from work.

An update to the system last year means they are now entitled to €460 for the first fortnight of a child's life.

Teresa Heeney from Early Childhood Ireland says the low up-take is not surprising.

"It mirrors the issue that we have with maternity leave, in that a lot of mothers don't take the additional unpaid leave because they simply can't afford to do so.

"And as well as that, in order to access the new paternity leave you need to have the new public services card - and I think that comes as a bit of a surprise to people".

There are suggestions that some fathers are not aware of their entitlements, and that the process of having to get the new public services card and fill out lengthy forms is unnecessarily complicated.

Ciaran Beehan took the two weeks, but says he would not have been able to do it without his employers help.

"The form itself is quite lengthy, about 16 pages long, and I can imagine if I was self-employed it would be incredibly difficult.

The amount of requests for information on that is quite detailed".

There are calls to make the benefit mandatory to improve uptake.

However the Department of Social Protection says there are no plans to do so at this time.

Employers are not obliged to top up the payment, but they are being encouraged to put administration supports in place to make it easier for fathers.