Finally paternity leave is now a statutory entitlement in Ireland. It applies from 1 September 2016.
So as an employer what do you need to do to know?
Firstly the legislation provides that all employees who are 'relevant parents' of a child born after 1 September 2016 will be entitled to 2 weeks consecutive leave to care for their child.
What's a relevant parent?
A "relevant parent" includes the child’s father, the spouse/ civil partner/ cohabitant of the child’s mother or sole male adopter and parents of a donor-conceived child. Same sex couples jointly adopting a child must choose one parent to be the “relevant parent”.
When do my employees need to let me know they are taking paternity leave?
They must give you 4 weeks' notice of the date on which they intend to start their paternity leave. This notification should include a medical certificate confirming the expected birth date or a notification of expected adoption placement date.
When can they take it?
It must be taken within 26 weeks of the birth/placement of the child.
What about multiple births?
Employees can only take one period of leave where there are multiple births or adoptions at the same time.
Do I have to pay employees during paternity leave?
Paternity leave is like maternity leave. There is no obligation to pay an employee while on paternity leave. Employees entitled to paternity leave may be entitled to paternity benefit from the State of €230 per week. Entitlement for this is calculated in the same way as maternity benefit and is payable by the Dept. of Social Protection. Eligibility is based on PRSI contributions. However employers need to seriously consider if they should pay a top up. If an employer tops up an employee during maternity leave then it is potential gender discrimination to not apply the same top up to paternity leave. Employers should review their maternity leave policies and make sure that their paternity leave policies are in line. If an employer does pay full salary during the period they should make sure that the employee remits their State benefit to the employer or else they should only pay the difference. To get the State benefit employees must have a public services card and should apply to the Dept. of Social Protection at least 4 weeks before they expect the leave to begin.
Does the employer need to do anything so an employee can get Paternity Benefit?
Yes. Employers must fill out a Form PB2 Employer Certificate. This is effectively the employer confirming that the employee has notified them of their intention to take paternity leave. This must be provided to the Dept. of Social Protection.
Is there anything else employers need to know or should do?
Paternity benefit can be postponed by an employee if they have given notice and then become sick and cannot avail of the leave. If the baby is hospitalised, paternity leave and benefit may be postponed for a maximum of 6 months. Where a baby is born prematurely, and the employee wishes to change their leave dates, a letter from the employer confirming the new leave dates and date of birth/ placement of the child, must be sent to the Paternity Benefit Section of the Department of Social Protection.
It is important to remember that for all employment rights (other than remuneration) employees on paternity leave should be treated as if they are still working while on a period of paternity leave. This is similar to all other family leave i.e. maternity, adoptive, parental. Employees should accrue their normal holidays during this time.
Employers should start reviewing their parental leave policies now to make sure that they are up to date to reflect the new paternity leave entitlements. Any employee with a baby arriving on 1 September will be notifying their employer asap!
Is it a good thing?
Absolutely. The introduction of paternity leave is a very welcome step towards equality and it is hoped that this will be increased further and further until we are like the Nordic countries. It is hoped that its introduction will encourage both parents to take time to be with their new child in what has traditionally been a female leave. It is expected to cost the State €5m this year and €20m for each full year from now on. It's definitely worth it!
An information campaign has been launched for the new two-week leave. It will guarantee new fathers two weeks’ leave and basic statutory welfare payments. However, new dads will also need to have a public service card to apply for the leave, due to a demand by the Department of Social Protection to ensure the new system is fully operational online.