Taking time off work has long been a consideration for new parents, with many businesses offering a period of paid or unpaid leave after the birth of a child. Statutory paternity leave has only been available in Ireland since 2016, but this may be unpaid, and new legislation has also been introduced to provide two extra weeks of paid leave for all parents in the first year of a child’s life. This has lead to some confusion over the amount of leave to which new fathers are entitled, and you can read on to find out more about this.
New parents (other than the mother of the child) are entitled to take a period of paternity leave from their employment or from self employment within six months of the birth or adoption of a child. This statutory paternity leave has been protected in Irish law since September 2016, and allows for two weeks of paternity leave to be taken in one continuous block.
Paternity leave can be taken at any time in the 26 weeks immediately following the birth or adoption of a baby or child, and you should give notice of your intention to take this leave to your employer in writing at least four weeks before the leave commences. You should provide a certificate of placement in the case of adoption, or a certificate from the mother of the child’s doctor confirming the date on which your baby is due, or confirming the birth date if you apply for paternity leave after the birth has happened.
The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 provides for statutory paternity leave of two weeks, and employers are not obliged to pay employees who choose to take this leave, although some choose to do so. You may qualify for Paternity Benefit if you have enough PRSI contributions, and this is paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. If your contract of employment allows for you to receive full pay during your paternity leave, this will be reduced by the amount of Paternity Benefit payable.
You will continue to accrue annual leave and public holiday entitlement while you are on paternity leave.
If you are self-employed, you should apply for paternity benefit 12 weeks before you wish to take your paternity leave, and you can apply for paternity benefit online at mywelfare.ie.
If you need to postpone your paternity leave, if the birth is later than expected or if an adoption placement is postponed, for example, you may do so according to the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016.
If you are unwell before your paternity leave starts, you may postpone your paternity leave until you are well, and this will require evidence from your doctor and written notification to your employer.
You may also wish to postpone your paternity leave if your baby is in hospital, under which circumstances you should ask your employer in writing if you can postpone all or part of your paternity leave.
If the mother of a baby or adopted child dies, the father of the child may be entitled to take maternity or adoptive leave, the length of which will depend on the actual date of the mother’s death. This leave will start within seven days of the mother’s death.
If a father takes maternity leave or adoptive leave in these circumstances, he may also take paternity leave at the end of this leave, if he has not already done so.
Paternity leave may, likewise, be transferred to the surviving parent (if they are employed) if the parent who is entitled to take paternity leave dies.
According to the law in Ireland, you are entitled to return to work in the same job with the same contract of employment. Section 23 of the Act states that you must be provided with suitable alternative work if it is not reasonably practicable for your employer to allow you to return to your job, and this should not be on terms that are substantially less favourable than those of your previous job. The law includes protection against penalisation and unfair dismissal.
If you have been dismissed for claiming your rights under paternity leave legislation, or if you have a dispute about paternity leave with your employer, you may make a complaint within six months of the complaint arising. You should use the online complaint form available at workplacerelations.ie, and the time limit may be extended for a further six months where a reasonable cause has prevented the complaint being brought sooner.
New legislation in Ireland provides two weeks of additional paid leave for each parent during their child’s first year of life, and this is due to affect around 60,000 parents. This new provision applies to the parents of all children born or adopted after November 1st 2019, and applies to self employed parents as well as those who are employed. This additional leave does not affect existing maternity, paternity or adoptive leave, and aims to offer new parents another opportunity for spending time with their babies. The two weeks of extra leave will be paid at €245 per week, by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, and cannot be transferred between parents.
You may also be entitled to other forms of leave for parents, including unpaid parental leave, adoptive leave, carer’s leave or force majeure leave, which applies in cases of emergency or sudden illness or injury. Unpaid parental leave is available to both parents, and allows for 22 weeks of unpaid time off work if needed to care for a child up to the age of 12, or up to the age of 16 if the child has a serious illness or disability. A further four weeks of unpaid parental leave is due to be added in September 2020.
Non-statutory paternal leave may be available through negotiation with your employer, and this will usually refer to paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. This is discretionary and will not be covered by employment law.
Paternity leave is a more important consideration than ever before in light of recent studies that show the benefits of fathers and children spending time together and building strong bonds from the earliest stages. The changes in law that provide for more paid time off are intended to support families in the early months, recognising the important role of fathers in the lives of their babies and children, and it is hoped that these changes will help to enable more parents to benefit from the bonding time that this is designed to protect.
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