The Minister today published the much anticipated Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016 (the ‘Bill’) which it is hoped will lead to “better outcomes for both the child and wider society”. The Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, has said that with co-operation the Bill should be passed in time to introduce payments from September.

In short, the Bill provides that all relevant parents including the self-employed, same-sex couples and those adopting, will be able to avail of two weeks paternity leave and also receive two weeks of paternity benefit after their child arrives. A relevant parent is defined as the father of the child, the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the mother.

It is envisaged that paternity benefit will take the form of a social welfare payment of €230.00 per week for a two week period. While employers will not have to pay the benefit themselves there will be an option of providing for a top-up if they so wish. It is also planned that parents will be able to avail of the payment at any stage twenty six weeks from the arrival of the child. There will be a notice requirement of four weeks before the taking of leave. There is a provision for leave at short notice should it be necessary. The Bill will also ensure that in the event of a stillbirth or death, the parent will be entitled to avail of paternity leave.

The Bill also provides for protection from penalisation for taking paternity leave and preservation of employment rights while on leave. Paternity leave should be used for the sole purpose of looking after the child, however, where the employer believes that it is not being used for this purpose they may give notice in writing to the employee to terminate the leave.

While many parents whose children were born this summer would have hoped that the Bill would be retrospective, unfortunately, it is expected that it will only apply to those whose children are born from September.

It is hoped that the Bill will be enacted in July to allow for a commencement date in September. We will continue to keep you updated as the Bill still has a number of steps to go through before it is enacted.