Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch has said the Government is looking at a number of proposals to allow fathers to share the statutory maternity leave currently given to new mothers.

She said the Government is looking at the possibility of a mother "gifting" a child's father two weeks of her maternity leave.

However, Ms Lynch said the Government would be ensuring that the power to decide on the parental leave is always vested with the mother.

Informal discussions with women's groups have already taken place and she said she hoped to speak to employers' groups soon.

Ms Lynch admitted that "it's a bit more complicated than originally thought".

"When we started looking at this, we weren't looking at the whole issue of same-sex marriage. Now we have surrogacy and all of that has complicated the issue", she said.