With effect from 1 September 2016, new parents (other than the mother of the child) are entitled to paternity leave from employment or self-employment following the birth or adoption of a child.
Subject to eligibility and notification criteria being met, the provisions apply to births and adoptions on or after 1 September 2016.
This is a major shift in Irish employment law as it brings Ireland in line with the minimum entitlement that has become standard in many European countries.
It is important for employers to know these changes in legislation, and employers should ensure that all contracts of employment, the Staff Handbook and HR policies include a paternity leave policy.
What does the legislation say?
The Paternity Leave Act enables a “relevant parent” to take two weeks’ paternity leave which must commence within the first 26 weeks of the birth or adoption of a child. Employees can choose to take paternity leave at any time in the 26 weeks following the birth or adoption.
A “relevant parent” includes:
- The father of the child
- The spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the mother of the child
- The parent of a donor-conceived child
In the case of an adopted child, the relevant parent includes:
- The nominated parent in the case of a married same-sex couple or
- The spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the adopting mother or sole male adopter
Is there a service threshold?
The entitlement of 2 weeks’ paternity leave from employment extends to all employees (including casual workers), regardless of how long an employee has been working for the organisation or the number of hours worked per week.
What about twins or more than one child being adopted?
If more than one child is born or adopted at the same time, employees are only entitled to a single period of 2 weeks’ paternity leave.
Can both parents avail of the leave?
Only one person who is a “relevant parent” in relation to a child is entitled to paternity leave in respect of that child.
What about pay during paternity leave?
During paternity leave, employees who have the necessary PRSI contributions and hold a Public Services Card are entitled to paternity benefit from the Department of Social Protection.
The benefit is paid by the Department of Social Protection at a rate of €230 per week, the same as maternity benefit, and is based on the same PRSI contribution requirements.
Do you top-up pay when female workers are on maternity leave?
Employers are not obliged to pay employees who are on paternity leave.
However an employee’s contract could provide for additional rights to payment by the employer during the leave period, so that, for example, the employee could receive full pay less the amount of Paternity Benefit payable.
Employers who already top-up maternity pay, need, from an equality perspective, to consider offering a similar scheme for those on paternity leave.
Employers need to decide whether their business will provide a top-up payment to an employee’s paternity benefit received from the State.
How is time spent on Paternity Leave treated?
Time spent on paternity leave is treated as though an employee has been in employment, and this time can be used to accumulate annual leave and public holiday entitlement.
Postponement of Paternity Leave
The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 provides for postponement of paternity leave. Postponement of paternity leave may arise in the event of the hospitalisation of the child or the absence form work due to illness of the relevant parent. However the taking of the paternity leave must occur within 7 days of the employee returning to work, the child returning from hospital and also within 26 weeks following the birth or adoption.
Applying for Paternity Leave
Like Maternity Leave, employees are required to apply to their employer in writing at least 4 weeks before taking their paternity leave.
If an employee is adopting a child, he/she must provide confirmation of the date of the child’s placement.
Employees are also required to provide their employer with a certificate from their spouse or partner’s doctor confirming when their baby is due, or confirmation of the actual date of birth if an employee is applying for leave after the birth. They also need to present the employer with a PB2 form to sign, similar to a MB10 form for maternity.
Who will complete the paperwork?
Relevant staff will need to be trained on the changes in legislation to ensure they are aware of all the administration paperwork around Paternity Leave.
Paternity Leave Policy
You can download our sample Paternity Leave policy by clicking the button below.