The Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016 has been passed by the Dáil and includes certain amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and to records to be kept and retained for the purposes of the Workplace Relations Act and prosecutions for breaches of same. The legislation will commence on 1 September 2016. It will provide statutory paternity leave and benefit for fathers and bring Ireland in line with many other EU countries. The leave is intended to encourage and promote a more equitable division of parental responsibilities in the workplace. Announcing the introduction of paternity leave, the government also referred to the possibility of a further 2 weeks' shared parental leave to be introduced in the next Budget.
A relevant parent will be entitled to two continuous weeks' paid leave in respect of births from September 2016. Payment will be at the rate of €230 per week, subject to a person having the appropriate PRSI contributions. This is the same as the current rate of maternity benefit. Similar to maternity leave, employers can top up paternity benefit if they want. It should be noted that where employers make a top up to female employees, they should ensure they do not discriminate against male employees in relation to a top up of paternity benefit.
Applicants for Paternity Leave:
The leave is available to all fathers, including self-employed, same sex couples and those adopting. The definition of relevant parent is set out in the legislation and "relevant parent" is defined as the father of the child, the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the mother. In most family circumstances it will be the father. The leave applies to only one person, except in the case of adoption, whereby a biological father may have already taken paternity leave. In such a case the legislation allows the subsequent adopting father to also take leave. If the baby dies or is stillborn, the entitlement to paternity leave continues and if one parent dies then the other parent inherits whatever paternity leave hasn’t been taken.
Relevant time for taking the leave:
The leave can be taken at any time in the 26 weeks' following the birth of the child (or placement in the case of adoption). 4 weeks' notice is required before the leave may be taken however there is provision for shorter notice. The legislation allows for the postponement of leave in certain circumstances, such as the sickness of a relevant parent and hospitalisation of the child.
Penalisation for taking Paternity Leave:
The legislation contains protections from penalisation for taking paternity leave and preservation of employment rights while on paternity leave. Similar to the maternity legislation, the legislation contains provisions such as the voidance of termination/notice of termination of a relevant parent while he/she is on paternity leave or the suspension of an employee while on leave.
Record Keeping (Offences):
Under Section 17 (1) of the legislation an employer shall make a record of the paternity leave of their employees indicating the period of employment for each employee and the dates and times in respect of which each employee was on paternity leave and under Section 17(2) this record shall be retained for 8 years. A contravention of Section 17 (1) or (2) is an offence, proceedings for which may be brought and prosecuted by the Workplace Relations Commission (proceedings to be commenced within 12 months from the date of the offence) and shall be liable on summary conviction to a class B Fine (currently €4,000).
Complaints to WRC:
Any dispute regarding paternity leave may be referred to an Adjudication Officer of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or on appeal to the Labour Court under Section 41 or 44 of the 2015 Act.
A copy of the Act may be viewed or downloaded HERE.
Information in relation to Paternity Benefit, relevant rules and conditions, and how to apply are available on the Department of Social Protection website at https://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Paternity-Benefit.aspx