In late 2018 the House of Representatives introduced amendments to the Protection of Paternity Law and the Social Insurances Law, by which paternity leave and benefits were granted to unmarried working fathers (previously these rights were available only to fathers who were married to their child's mother before birth or adoption).
Expressing the government's opposition on the matter, the president referred the amending laws to the Supreme Court, claiming that the extension of paternity benefits to unmarried fathers would add unbudgeted costs to the government's budget and therefore violate Articles 80(2) and 54 of the Constitution. Article 80(2) states that no representative can introduce a bill that results in increased budgetary expenditure and Article 54 states that only the government's executive branch has the power to direct general policy (for further details please see "Legislation extending paternity leave to unmarried fathers referred to Supreme Court").
With its recent decision on the matter,(1) the Supreme Court accepted the government's position and declared the amendments unconstitutional, stating that:
- there is no EU legislation or directive requiring EU member states to grant paternity leave or benefits to unmarried fathers. The relevant EU legislation regulates equality between men and women and not between married and unmarried men;
- Cyprus law has already been harmonised with EU gender equality laws and, since EU law does not require EU member states to grant unmarried fathers paternity-related rights, there is no question of direct or indirect discrimination; and
- the amendments add additional, unbudgeted costs to the government's budget and therefore violate Article 80(2) of the Constitution.
As there is no violation of EU law, any justification given for the amendments cannot negate this fact.
This well-justified Supreme Court decision will undoubtedly disappoint many Cypriot citizens who had been expecting Cyprus to address this issue and grant paternity-related benefits to unmarried fathers. The will of the majority of Cypriot people on this issue is clear, as most MPs voted in favour of the amendments. It is now up to the government to reconsider the issue and perhaps address it in future policies.
For further information on this topic please contact Nicos Panayiotou at George Z Georgiou & Associates LLC by telephone (+357 22 763 340) or email ([email protected]). The George Z Georgiou & Associates LLC website can be accessed at www.gzg.com.cy.
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