What is paternity leave?
Paternity leave gives new parents 2 weeks off work. You can take time off if you are employed or self-employment, and can start the leave any time in the first 6 months after the baby's birth. You can also take paternity leave when you adopt a child.
Usually, fathers take paternity leave. Paternity leave is also available to same-sex couples.
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.
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. This means one of you can take adoption leave and the other paternity leave. If you are adopting alone you can take paternity leave if you are not taking adoptive leave.
You can take 2 weeks’ paternity leave from full-time, casual or part-time employment. It does not matter how long you have been working for your employer or how many hours you work a week.
Paternity leave and pay
If you have enough PRSI contributions, you can get Paternity Benefit from the Department of Social Protection (DSP).
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 pay 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 need to give your employer notice that you want to take paternity leave and specify the dates you plan to take. You must do this in writing 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.
If you are adopting, you must provide a certificate of placement showing the date when the child was placed with you.
Other rules about paternity leave
If more than one child is born or adopted at the same time (such as twins), you can only take one single period of 2 weeks’ paternity leave.
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.
If your baby is born prematurely (before the paternity leave is due to begin), and you want to change your leave dates, you should send a letter from your employer confirming the new leave dates and the date of birth of your child to the Paternity Benefit Section. If you are self-employed you must send a letter to the Paternity Benefit section stating your new leave dates and a letter from a doctor or the hospital confirming the date of birth of your child.
If your partner has a stillbirth or miscarriage any time after the 24th week of pregnancy, or after your baby has a birth weight of at least 500 grams, you are entitled to paternity leave.
To apply for Paternity Benefit following a stillbirth, you need to send a letter from your doctor with the Paternity Benefit application form. The letter must state the expected date of birth, the actual date of birth and the number of weeks of pregnancy.
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.
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 ‘Having problems taking paternity leave’ below.
Other leave for parents
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 one parent of the adoptive couple, or a parent adopting alone
- 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
Applying for 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
Applying for 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.
Having problems taking paternity leave
If you have a problem taking your paternity leave, you should raise it with your employer first. If you cannot resolve the issue directly with your employer, you can make a formal complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
How to make a complaint to the WRC
If you have a dispute with your employer about paternity leave, or face dismissal over paternity rights, you can make a complaint to the WRC. You should use the online complaint form.
You should make your complaint within 6 months of the dispute taking place. The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, if there was reasonable cause for the delay.