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 birth or adoption of a child – see ‘Rules’ below for who is eligible. The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 provides for statutory paternity leave of 2 weeks. The provisions apply to births and adoptions on or after 1 September 2016. You can start paternity leave at any time within the first 6 months following the birth or adoption placement.
Payment during paternity leave
Your entitlement to pay and superannuation during paternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay employees who are on paternity leave. You may qualify for Paternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection if you have sufficient PRSI contributions. 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.
Who is eligible
Under the Act, a “relevant parent” for the purposes of paternity leave entitlement 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
The entitlement to 2 weeks’ paternity leave from employment extends to all employees (including casual workers), regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours worked per week. If more than one child is born or adopted at the same time, for example, twins, you are only entitled to a single period of 2 weeks’ paternity leave.
Taking paternity leave
You can choose to take paternity leave at any time in the 26 weeks following the birth or adoption. You must notify your employer in writing that you intend to take paternity leave and provide your intended dates no later than 4 weeks before your leave. You will be required to provide a certificate from your spouse or partner's doctor confirming when your baby is due, or confirmation of the baby’s actual date of birth if you apply for leave after the birth has occurred.
In the case of adoption, you must produce a certificate of placement in relation to the child.
Postponing paternity leave
The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 provides for postponement of paternity leave. For example, if the birth is later than expected or if the date of placement of an adopted child is postponed, you may postpone the date of the leave.
Under Section 11, if you are sick before your paternity leave starts, you may 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
Death of a parent
In certain circumstances, fathers are entitled to maternity or adoptive leave if the mother dies. The extent of this period of leave depends on the actual date of the mother’s death. The leave starts within 7 days of the mother's death.
If the father has not already taken paternity leave, he may take it at the end of this maternity or adoptive leave.
If the parent entitled to paternity leave dies, their paternity leave may be transferred to the employed surviving parent.
Employers must keep records of paternity leave taken by their employees. These records must include the period of employment of each employee and the dates and times of the leave taken. Employers must keep these records for 8 years.
Returning to work
Under the Act, you are entitled to return to work to the same job with the same contract of employment. Section 23 of the Act states that, if it is not reasonably practicable for your employer to allow you to return to your job, then they must provide you with suitable alternative work. This new position should not be on terms substantially less favourable than those of your previous job.
Other statutory leave
Employees may be entitled to parental leave. Parental leave entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children.
Sole male adopters and adoptive mothers may be entitled to adoptive leave.
If you need to take time off work urgently because of injury or illness of a close family member, you may be entitled to force majeure leave.
If you need to provide full-time care for someone in need of full-time care and attention for a while, you can apply to take carer’s leave from your employment.
Non-statutory paternal leave
Arrangements where employers provide this type of paid 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. The employee usually applies for this leave in writing before the birth or adoption.
How to apply
You should apply to your employer in writing at least 4 weeks before taking your paternity leave. If you are adopting a child, you must provide confirmation of the date of the child’s placement.
You must provide your employer with proof of the expected date of confinement of your spouse or partner. In other words, you will be required to provide a certificate from your spouse or partner's doctor confirming when your baby is due, or confirmation of the actual date of birth if you are applying for leave after the birth.
If you need further information about paternity leave, you should contact the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service.
If you have a dispute with your employer about paternity leave, or if you have been dismissed for claiming your rights under paternity leave legislation, you may make a complaint within 6 months of the dispute or complaint occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.
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 will be able to apply for Paternity Benefit online at mywelfare.ie.
Where to apply