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What You Need To Know about the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016

Posted on February 7, 2017 by Browne & Murphy Solicitors

The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act commenced on 1 September 2016. This act provides for two weeks paternity leave for relevant parents and applies to all births/or adoptions on or after the 1st September 2016.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible of paternity leave you need to come within the definition of a “relevant parent” under the act which 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

and 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

What is the purpose of paternity leave?

The purpose of the leave is to enable the “relevant parent” to assist in the provision of care to the child and to provide support to the mother of the child/ or the relevant adopting parent. It is important to note that a key requirement is that the leave must be used to take care of the child to which the leave relates. If the leave is being used for another purpose, the employer can terminate the leave on the giving of written notice.

What are eligible employees entitled to? Eligible employees will be entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave to be taken in a continuous block following the birth/ or adoption of a child from 1 September 2016. In the case of multiple births/or where a person adopts two or more children at the same time, an employee shall only be entitled to a single period of paternity leave. An employee can choose to take paternity leave at any time in the 26 weeks following the birth/or adoption. The employee must notify their employer in writing of the intention to take paternity leave and provide the intended dates no later than 4 weeks before the leave.

Applications for paternity benefit should be made to the Department of Social Protection at least four weeks before the commencement of paternity leave. What should an Employer do?  Employers should consider putting a paternity leave policy in place or update their policies and procedures to ensure that the new paternity rights are covered. There is no statutory obligation on employers to pay employees while they are on paternity leave, but employers can top-up the paternity benefit if they wish. It is important that an employer would look to harmonise their maternity leave and paternity leave polices.