In order to bring Ireland in line with our European neighbours, and as part of the 2016 Budget, the Government made a commitment to bring in legislation that would provide for two weeks’ paid statutory paternity leave by September 2016. The proposal provides that fathers would be entitled to €230 per week paternity pay from the State, provided they have sufficient PRSI contributions similar to the requirement for the State Maternity Benefit. The proposal allows fathers to take the paternity leave at any stage during the first 26 weeks of their child’s life.
At an EU level, the Equal Treatment Directive provides that Member States may recognise distinct rights to paternity leave, however the Directive does not impose any obligation on Member States to do so. At the time of writing, there is no statutory right in Ireland for fathers to take paternity upon the birth of their child. Some employers (for example in the public sector) offer a number of paid days off as paternity leave in the contract of employment. Outside of this, however, fathers are required to take either annual leave or unpaid leave on the birth of their child.
Paternity leave is separate and distinct from parental leave, whereby both parents are entitled to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave at a time agreed with their employer prior to their child’s eighth birthday (or sixteenth birthday if the child has a disability). The State does not make any payment for parental leave, and in practice, it is rare for employers to pay for parental leave.
The proposed statutory paternity leave has been met positively for the most part. However, some employers organisations expressed concern that it would put financial pressure on an employer to pay employees on paternity leave. The proposal put forward, however, does not contain any reference to an employer paying an employee for paternity leave.
No legislation has been put in place for paternity leave. At present, the heads have been agreed for the Family Leave Bill, which is intended to bring in this change, and the expected publication date for the Bill is sometime in 2016. Given the current uncertainty over the Government, it remains to be seen if and when the proposed statutory paternity leave will be implemented by the new Government.
This article is intended to provide only general information for the clients and professional contacts of Maples and Calder. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to render legal advice
James Scanlon is Head of Employment Law at Maples and Calder’s Dublin office and was assisted by Sinéad Egan, Associate. Should you have any queries on this or any employment matter please contact James or your usual Maples contact.