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Cyprus

House extends paternity leave to unmarried couples

By Evie Andreou

The House plenum on Friday voted into law two bills extending the right to paternity allowance to men who are not married and those who have not entered into a civil partnership, amidst warning by some MPs of unconstitutionality due to the increase it would put on the state budget.

The proposals, submitted by Akel, extend the eligibility criteria to include fathers who live with the mother of their child but were not married or those who had entered a civil partnership. They provide for a sworn statement by both parents that they live under the same roof.

The bills were voted into law with 25 votes for, 15 against and nine abstentions.

Diko abstained from the vote, citing unconstitutionality of the law, while ruling Disy, voted against, for the same reason.

The head of Disy, Averof Neophytou, said that his party was not against the proposals politically, but that there was an issue of constitutionality.

Diko deputy, Angelos Votsis, too said that even though there were positive elements in the proposals, his party would abstain from voting for the same reason.

The unconstitutionality lies in that including this group of men to the beneficiaries of paternity leave, would increase the state budget.

The labour ministry had argued during discussion of the proposals at committee level, that the law granting paternity leave, passed last year, was based on precise calculations of the cost of granting this benefit to couples who married in church, or had a civil marriage, or who have not entered into a civil partnership.

To also entitle people who are unmarried, or not in a civil partnership would inflate the cost to the social insurance fund, the ministry had said.

Some MPs also expressed concerns over the possibility of the partners of these men losing their single parent allowance, but also of men exerting pressure or violence on the mothers to agree to sign the statement that they live under the same roof.

The head of the House labour committee, Akel’s Andreas Fakontis, said in defence of his party’s proposals, that the legislature ought to be in touch with reality, adding that many couples nowadays have children before entering into marriages. Fatherhood, he said, is not about the relationship between parents, but about that of a parent with his child.

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