Currently, employers are not obliged to grant male employees paternity leave (either paid or unpaid) following the birth of their child. Annual leave taken following the birth of a child is treated in employment law in the same way as leave taken at any other time of the year. It is at the discretion of the employer to decide who can and cannot take annual leave at a given time.
The Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016 (pdf) proposes to introduce statutory paternity leave of 2 weeks together with a new Paternity Benefit. When enacted, the legislation will allow new fathers to start the combined package of paternity leave and Paternity Benefit at any time within the first 6 months following birth or adoption of a child. The proposed provisions will apply to births and adoptions on or after 1 September 2016.
Some employers, (for example, the civil service), do provide a period of paid leave from work for male employees following the birth or adoption of their child. Fathers employed in the civil service are entitled to a period of special (paternal) leave of 3 days with pay in respect of children born on or after 1 January, 2000 or for children adopted after 1 January 2000.
The employee usually applies for this leave in writing before the birth or adoption. Arrangements where employers provide this type of leave following the birth or adoption of a child are the result of negotiation and agreement reached between the employer and employee. These arrangements are not covered by employment law so if an employer agrees to provide time off to an employee as paternal leave for a specified period (either with or without pay), it is entirely discretionary.
While male employees are not entitled under law to either paid or unpaid paternity leave, they may be entitled to parental leave. Parental leave entitles both parents who qualify to take a period of up to 18 weeks' unpaid leave from employment in respect of children up to 8 years of age.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.