Paternity leave is a legal right your employees can use when they have a child. This means it’s an important area of employment law to understand.
So, in this guide we explore the topic and explain your business’ legal standing. As well as the rights of your employees.
How does paternity leave work?
Paternity leave entitles employees to take time off to support their child in the period shortly after its arrival. The result is that fathers (or the partner of the child’s mother) can take time off from work to be with their family.
Some employees may refer to it as “father leave”. This isn’t anything different to paternity leave, it’s just a more informal title as it mostly benefits fathers.
Staff may also ask you how to apply for paternity leave. You can explain these details in your contract of employment.
You can also provide them with a paternity leave form to complete—there are details about this at the end of this guide.
Who can take paternity leave?
Paternity leave legislation states that ‘relevant parents’ can take leave when a child is born or adopted. The legislation defines a ‘relevant parent’ as:
- The father of the child.
- The partner (spouse, civil partner or cohabitant) of the mother of the child.
- The parent of a donor-conceived child.
For an adopted child, the legislation defines a ‘relevant parent’ as:
- The nominated parent in the case of a married same sex-couple.
- The partner of the adopting mother.
- A man adopting alone.
How long is paternity leave in Ireland?
Under the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016, eligible working parents have a paternity leave entitlement to take two weeks’ paternity leave from their employment. The government introduced a statutory right to paternity leave in September 2016.
It is not affected by how long your staff have been working for you nor how many hours they work each week.
If more than one child has been born your employees’ statutory right remains the same. Fathers of twins for instance will still just have the statutory right to take two weeks’ paternity leave.
When does paternity leave start?
Paternity leave can be taken any time in the 26 weeks after the birth or adoption of the child. Your employee must provide a certificate from the mother’s doctor stating when the baby is due, or stating the baby’s actual date of birth if your employee applies for paternity leave after the birth.
If it’s a case of adoptive leave, the employee must provide a certificate of the placement of the child. Employers must keep records of employees’ paternity leave for eight years.
Your employee must notify you in writing that they plan to take paternity leave and specify the dates at least 4 weeks before they take their paternity leave.
Like maternity leave, when it comes to payment during paternity leave, you have no obligation to pay employees for its duration.
Paternity leave comes with an associated state benefit that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) pays.
Do note that your employees may ask you, “Can paternity leave be taken in parts?” No, employees must take this in one two-week block.
Essential paternity leave paperwork
From the employer’s point of view, you will need to certify that your employee is taking paternity leave to allow the employee to claim the state paternity benefit.
Once your employee informs you that s/he intends to take paternity leave, you should ask them to provide a certificate from their spouse/partner’s doctor confirming either:
- When the baby is due.
- When the baby was born.
In the case of adoption, the employee must produce the certificate of placement.
Once you receive this certificate, there’s a paternity leave form for employers to fill out. The DEASP provides the form PB2.
The reason for new paternity leave policies
It’s a relatively recent employment law trend. Recent changes in paternity leave reflect societal changes.
As more men take a more active role in child-rearing and more women stay in the world of work, the need for a more equal distribution of family-friendly leave entitlements is very apparent.
Many larger employers have moved to equalise their maternity and paternity leave policies.
The Irish government is also likely to come under pressure to follow the lead of the large corporate employers.
It may do this by legislating to increase paternity leave or provide a greater minimum paternity leave entitlement. This means it’s important for your business to keep up to date with the most recent laws.
Creating a paternity leave policy
The best way for your business to handle paternity requests is to develop a paternity leave policy. This should set out how employees fulfil the requirements they need to claim state benefit. As well as to comply with your operational requirements.
For instance, to claim the statutory entitlement to paternity leave and DEASP benefit your employees must notify you of their intention to take paternity leave in Ireland for four weeks ahead of the start date.
In your policy, which you can include in your employee’s contract and/or company handbook, you should include:
- Details on your business’ terms and conditions for paternity leave eligibility.
- How an employee can claim their allocated time off.
- How many weeks of paid leave they receive.
- Where they can get a paternity leave form to make a claim.
How much is paternity leave pay?
Is paternity leave paid? As an employer, you have no obligation to pay an employee while they are on paternity leave. Paternity leave is accompanied by the state paternity benefit paid by the DEASP.
Statutory paternity leave requirements dictate that staff receive two weeks’ leave and staff must take it consecutively in one block.
So, do employers pay paternity leave? No, as mentioned above, you have no legal obligation to pay staff who take paternity leave. The accompanying state paternity benefit is currently paid at a rate of €245 per week.
Employees must have made a certain number of PRSI contributions in the previous 12 months to qualify for the state paternity leave payment in Ireland.
The DEASP will confirm their eligibility when they apply for paternity leave and benefit.
Important paternity-related protections
Employees on paternity leave will enjoy similar protections to those that exist for mothers while they are on maternity leave. These include:
- Any dismissal of an employee while on paternity leave is void.
- The legislation will also prohibit the penalisation of an employee for taking paternity leave.
- The employee has the right to return to work in the same or similar post.
- Employees will accrue annual leave and public holiday entitlements on paternity leave.
In the event of the death of the relevant employee when they didn’t take some—or all—of their paternity leave entitlement, that remaining amount will transfer to the other parent.
Paternity leave form
It can be useful to keep in your records a form for employees to fill in. This will explain they have a period of paternity leave coming up they’d like to take.
The form is, essentially, an employee’s declaration of an upcoming or recent birth and the request to take time off work to support their family.
There are strict record keeping rules under the paternity leave legislation. Employers must keep records of all paternity leave taken by staff for 8 years. Your forms or records should include the following minimum details:
- The employee’s name.
- How long they have been employed for.
- The dates the paternity leave was taken.
Need our help?
If you would like further complementary advice on paternity leave from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 0818 923 923.