At the beginning of September, the much anticipated Paternity Bill came to fruition. It allows all new fathers-to-be to apply for two weeks’ paternity leave for the first time. The father has to take the leave within 26 weeks of the birth or adoption. It’s been a long time coming for parents, allowing the father to spend more time at home – a chance for him to bond with the baby and support his partner. It is perhaps a step in the right direction towards reducing gender discrimination in Ireland too.
So what will it mean for fathers? New fathers will be able to receive up to €230 per week in benefit (based on their PRSI contribution record). They must give their employers at least four weeks’ notice. However, as we all know the birth of babies can be unpredictable, so there is provision for postponing or bringing forward the paternity leave.
What steps will employers need to take?
1. Create a policy. Build one that covers all the bases, detailing everything that the employee must comply with in order to receive the leave.
2. Be fair. The point of this legislation is to boost parental rights so make sure that the policies you put in place for paternity are the same as those for maternity.
3. Are you obligated to top up the benefit? As an employer, it is not compulsory to top up the benefit. However, you may wish to do so to bring the employee’s wages up to their normal level. Consideration is needed here because if you give the benefit to one employee, you may be setting a precedent and other employees will have an expectation that they too are entitled to the top-up. Also bear in mind how you handle this issue with maternity leave, as this could affect your stance.
4. Be aware. Under the changes, your employee’s job is protected and you cannot change anything on the original contract or the job description.
5. Get feedback. As it is a new piece of legislation get feedback from your employees about your implementation of the bill in the workplace!