Paternity Leave & Benefit- What to Expect?
The 1st September 2016, will be a significant date for families and fathers throughout Ireland, as it marks the commencement of the Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016.
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald heralded the legislation as “ground-breaking” on its passing through the Dáil on 23rd June this year. The legislation will finally bring Ireland in line with other EU member states through the provision of social welfare benefits and leave time for fathers after the birth of a child.
What does the legislation state?
The legislation entitles new fathers, including those of adopted children, to apply for two weeks’ paternity leave and benefit at any time within 26 weeks of the birth, from the 1st September 2016.
Employees must provide their employers with four weeks written notice and the entitlements are to apply equally to same-sex couples and self-employed fathers.
The paternity benefit will be paid by the Department of Social Protection at a rate of €230 per week, the same as the current maternity benefit, subject to the father having made suitable PRSI contributions prior to the leave period.
It is imperative for employers and organisations to be prepared for the introduction of this legislation, which will add organisational costs both from a time resource and monetary perspective.
Employers should ensure that a proper ‘paternity leave and benefit policy’ is well drafted and appropriately covers all of the key legislative points and processes.
Some employers may also choose to pay employees a top-up payment during the two-week period, in a similar manner to maternity leave. This would ensure the paternity benefit would correspond with the employee’s weekly salary, even though employers are not required to do so.
Given the competitive challenges certain organisations are facing in both attracting and maintaining qualified staff, such incentives to top-up salaries over the minimum statutory threshold may become another necessary tactic to gain a competitive edge along with other organisational employee benefits.
Furthermore, from an equality and equity standpoint, organisations that operate a maternity top-up policy, may have little option but to automatically apply the same for their male staff. To not do so would leave an organisation carelessly open to employee discontent and possible legal challenge.
A changing Ireland
There is no doubt that some employers will see the new Bill as yet another legal and compliance burden that will require significant time and financial input for its implementation, while others will embrace and encourage these necessary entitlements.
Overall, this legislation is most welcome and long overdue, both from a family and societal perspective. It recognises the reality that fathers are involved in child-rearing in modern Ireland and that the traditional maternally focused policies of the past, require updating to reflect a more equal and modern family existence.
J.O.S Solicitors provides tailored Employment Law and HR Compliance to Business and individuals. If you would like J.O.S Solicitors to assist your business with drafting its own paternity leave and benefit policy or to simply discuss your options about any employment law or HR compliance issue, then please contact us
Jason O’ Sullivan, is a Solicitor and Public Affairs Consultant at J.O.S Solicitors
This publication is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. No liability is accepted by J.O.S Solicitors for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Any and all information is subject to change and professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication.