Paternity leave gives new parents 2 weeks off work. You can take time off from either employment or self-employment, and can start the leave any time in the first 6 months after the birth or placement in the case of an adoption.
Usually, fathers take paternity leave. Paternity benefit is also available to same-sex couples. You can read more about who can take paternity leave in ‘Rules’ below.
Your employer does not have to pay you during paternity leave, but you may qualify for Paternity Benefit.
The legislation on paternity leave is set out in the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016.
Rules about paternity leave
Who can take paternity leave?
Relevant parents can take paternity leave. These are:
- 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 relevant parent is the parent who is not the qualifying adopter for adoptive leave (the parent nominated by the couple to take the adoptive leave) A person adopting alone can avail of paternity leave where they are not availing of adoptive leave.
All employees (including part-time and casual workers) who are relevant parents can take 2 weeks’ paternity leave from employment. It is not affected by how long you have been working for the employer or how many hours you work a week. If more than one child is born or adopted at the same time (such as twins), you can take only one single period of 2 weeks’ paternity leave.
Can I get payment during paternity leave?
Social welfare: If you have enough PRSI contributions, you can get Paternity Benefit from the Department of Social Protection (DSP).
Employer: Employers do not have to pay employees who are on paternity leave. You should check your contract of employment to see whether you can get pay and pension contributions from your employer during paternity leave.
Your contract could give you the right to payments from your employer, in addition to Paternity Benefit while you are on paternity leave. For example, your employer may top up the amount you get from Paternity Benefit to match your normal pay.
When can I take paternity leave?
You can choose to take paternity leave at any time in the 26 weeks after the birth or adoption. You must notify your employer in writing that you plan to take paternity leave and specify the dates at least 4 weeks before your leave.
You must provide a certificate from your partner’s doctor stating when your baby is due, or stating the baby’s actual date of birth if you apply for leave after the birth.
In the case of adoption, you must provide a certificate of placement showing the date when the child was placed with you.
Can I postpone paternity leave?
You can postpone paternity leave if, for example, the birth is later than expected or if there is a delay in the placement of an adopted child.
If you are sick before your paternity leave starts, you can postpone the paternity leave until you recover. You should notify your employer in writing and provide evidence of your illness.
If your baby is hospitalised, you can ask your employer in writing if you can postpone all or part of your paternity leave.
Public holidays and annual leave
In general, you are treated as though you are in employment while you are on paternity leave. This means you continue to build up your entitlement to annual leave. You are also entitled to leave for any public holidays that occur during your paternity leave.
Death of a parent
Fathers may be entitled to maternity leave or adoptive leave if the mother dies. The number of weeks you can take as leave depends on how many weeks after the birth the mother dies. The leave starts within 7 days of the mother’s death.
If you have not already taken paternity leave, you can take it at the end of this maternity leave or adoptive leave.
If the parent entitled to paternity leave dies, the surviving parent may be able to use their paternity leave.
Employers keep records
Your employer must keep records of the paternity leave you have taken. These records must include how long you have been employed and the dates and times of the leave taken. Employers must keep these records for 8 years.
Returning to work
By law, you have the right to return to the same job with the same contract of employment. If this would be too difficult for your employer to arrange, then they must provide you with suitable alternative work. The terms of your new job must not be ‘less favourable’ than those of your previous job.
When you take paternity leave, the law protects you against penalisation and unfair dismissal. If you have a dispute with your employer over paternity rights, you can complain to the Workplace Relations Commission – see ‘Disputes’ under ‘How to apply’ below.
What other leave can parents take?
Various types of statutory leave are available for parents. You may be entitled to:
- Parental leave: Gives parents the right to take 26 weeks’ unpaid leave from work to look after their children aged under 12
- Parent's leave: Gives parents the right to take 5 weeks’ leave to look after their children aged under 2 or during the first two years of adoption
- Adoptive leave: For people adopting alone and nominated adoptive parents
- Force majeure leave: For people who need to take time off work urgently because of an injury or illness of a close family member
- Carer’s leave: For people who need to take time off work to provide full-time care for someone who needs it, for a while
Can I take additional paternity leave?
Your employer may allow you to have additional paid or unpaid time off work after the birth or adoption of a child. These individual arrangements are not covered by employment law and it is your employer’s decision. You should ask for this leave in writing before the birth or adoption
How to apply for paternity leave
Paternity leave: You should apply to your employer in writing at least 4 weeks before taking your paternity leave. You must provide one of the following:
- A doctor’s certificate stating when your baby is due
- Confirmation of the actual date of birth, if you are applying for leave after the birth
- A letter confirming the date of the child’s placement, if you are adopting a child
Paternity Benefit: You should apply for Paternity Benefit at least 4 weeks before the date you intend to start your paternity leave. If you are self-employed, you should apply 12 weeks before. You can apply for Paternity Benefit online at mywelfare.ie.
How to make a complaint
If you have a dispute with your employer about paternity leave, or face dismissal over paternity rights, you can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission.
You must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie.
You should send in your complaint within 6 months. The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only if you have good reason for not meeting the normal limit.
If you need further information about paternity leave, you should contact the Workplace Relations Commission’s Information and Customer Service or contact DSP about Paternity Benefit.