knowledge | 5 July 2016 |

Paternity Leave on the Horizon

In the most recent Budget, the Government committed to the introduction of a Paternity Benefit Scheme. In January, the Government announced that it had approved proposals to introduce paid paternity leave in Ireland. On 20 June, the Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016 was published.

When announcing the proposals, Minister for Justice, Frances FitzGerald, noted that the introduction of paternity leave would have positive effects in terms of gender equality and would allow fathers to spend time caring for and being with their children and families. She further pointed out that, at present, Ireland is one of the few European countries without such leave.

The remit of the Bill is not confined to the father of the child and the Bill provides for same sex couples on an equal basis with other couples. The Bill provides a “relevant parent” with two weeks’ continuous statutory paternity leave from his or her employment, to be taken within 26 weeks of the birth/adoption of a child. A relevant parent is defined as someone other than the mother of the child who is (a) in the case of a child to be adopted, the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the adopting mother or the sole male adopter of the child or (b) in any other case, the father of the child, the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the mother of the child or a parent of the child within the meaning of section 5 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.

The Bill provides for the postponement of paternity leave in certain instances such as, inter alia, in the event of the sickness of the relevant parent or the hospitalisation of the child. The Bill also sets out various protections for employees on paternity leave in line with existing employment protections for those on maternity and adoptive leave, such as the voidance of termination or notice of termination of employment.

In addition to this statutory paternity leave, a relevant parent will be entitled to receive a social welfare payment of €230 per week, the same rate as maternity benefit. The paternity benefit will be paid to relevant parents who are self-employed and employed provided they satisfy the requisite PRSI contribution requirements. Similar to maternity leave, an employer may decide to pay an employee during the two week period; however they are not required to do so.

It is envisaged that the Bill will be enacted prior to the Dáil break in July to allow for a commencement date in September.

This briefing is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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