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Paternity Leave – How do British and Irish dads fare when it comes to newborns?

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Paternity Leave and Parental Leave in the UK and Ireland

 

Having a baby is life-changing, yet many fathers in the UK and Republic of Ireland are unsure of what time off they are entitled to while still being paid.

 

For many, there are few bigger milestones in one’s life than the birth of a child. The same can be said for those who adopt. Of course, babies need round the clock care, meaning that most parents will require time off work. Typically, for fathers, this is structured differently to mothers who, as expected, are afforded more time away.

 

In the UK and Republic of Ireland, paternity leave is one element of leave available to fathers when a child is born, alongside shared parental leave. Both countries have similar aims here, namely affording parents sufficient time to care for newborns, and so the benefits schemes have been devised so as to offer as much notice as possible for employers, thus enabling them to plan for staff departures. 

 

In addition, through the parental leave set-ups, a more flexible option is available for all involved that can be drawn upon throughout the earliest period of the child’s life.

 

Summary:

 

  • Paternity Leave in the UK
  • Paternity Leave in the Republic of Ireland
  • Shared Parental Leave and Pay in the UK
  • Shared Parental Leave Benefit in the Republic of Ireland

 

Paternity Leave in the UK

 

For British dads who are employed, up to 2 weeks of paternity leave are allowed, in line with the following:

 

  • You must have been employed by your company for at least 26 consecutive weeks up to  the 15th week before the day the baby is due (also known as the qualifying week);

  • You are the father or adopter of the child, the spouse or partner of the mother or adopter, which includes same-sex couples, or due to be the parent of a surrogacy baby;

  • You must have given your employer sufficient notice, at least 15 weeks before the baby is due. You should indicate when this date is, when you would like to begin your leave and whether you want one or two weeks. Some employers will request this in writing;

  • You will also need to apply for paternity pay, either with Form SC3 or through your employers’ internal version.

 

In the UK, statutory paternity pay is currently either £151.97 per week or 90% of your average weekly wage. The lower of the two will be paid, in the usual manner that you receive your payment and normally during your leave. The time that you take is not impacted by how many babies you have, with two weeks is still the limit in the case of twins, for example.

 

In cases of adoption, the continuous employment requirement is 26 weeks prior to the end of the week in which you are ‘matched’ with your child. The forms here are slightly different, with a Form SC4 needed for adoption relation paternity leave, and a Form SC5 for overseas adoptions. Proof of adoption will also be required.

 

Aside from cases of adoption, there is no requirement to give a fixed start date for your paternity leave, although it cannot be before the birth. This is rather logical, as it is often quite difficult to predict when exactly a baby will arrive and unpaid leave is still permitted for antenatal visits. As such, fathers are required to give a general idea of when they will take their paternity leave, such as two weeks from the birth, with an end date limit of 56 days after the arrival. 

 

If for some reason you are not eligible for paternity leave, because you do not meet the qualifying requirements, your employer should notify you via a Form SPP1. Reasons will be specified on this form.

 

To qualify for paternity pay in the UK, you must be earning at least £120 per week from your job, pre-tax. Note that even with a change to this because of the coronavirus furlough scheme, you may still be able to claim paternity pay.

 

Tax and National Insurance are still deducted from the final amount received. To change your paternity leave dates, you need to give 28 days’ notice. While employees are on paternity leave, their employment rights are still legally protected, meaning that their return to work, holiday accrual and any pay rises should remain unaffected.

 

Some companies will have their own policies on top of statutory paternity pay meaning that their employees are given more paid time off. This of course will vary and is subject to internal agreement, but all employers must at least offer the above minimum.

 

Sadly, in some cases, there will be instances where a baby is stillborn or dies not long after birth. Paternity leave is still allowed for fathers who find themselves in such a situation where the pregnancy has lasted at least 24 weeks or the child was born alive.

 

Paternity Leave in the Republic of Ireland

 

On the other side of the Irish sea, the laws on paternity leave differ somewhat. Firstly, anyone who pays PRSI (Pay Related Social Insurance, at Class A, E and H) contributions is entitled to paternity pay, meaning that the self-employed who earn over 5,000 a year are eligible (PRSI Class S).

 

Paternity Benefit, as it is known in Ireland, currently stands at €245 per week and can be taken for two weeks within the first six months of the birth of the child. Like in the UK, to qualify you must be either the father of the child, the spouse or partner of the mother, or parent of a surrogate baby. 

 

However, in Ireland, there are fewer qualifying factors with regard to employment status. All employees are entitled to paternity leave, no matter how long they have worked for their employer. The same rule about having multiple babies at once applies, meaning that there is still no extra time given for twins or even quintuplets!

 

Employers must be notified in writing at least four weeks before you take paternity leave and proof must be given of the due date (date of birth if applying after) or adoption date. Your employer will then fill out a Form PB3 to verify your entitlement. Leave can be postponed if necessary, which may be beneficial if you are sick or the birth is delayed. You will still be accruing holidays while you are off, as well as benefiting from any public holidays that fall within the leave period.

 

To apply for paternity leave in Ireland when self-employed, a Form PB3 is required, which will be completed by your doctor. This must be done no later than 12 weeks before the date of the intended paternity leave.

 

Shared Parental Leave and Pay in the UK

 

As mentioned earlier, in the UK there is another type of statutory paid leave available to new fathers known as Shared Parental Leave. This follows much of the same eligibility criteria as paternity leave, such as the prerequisite of being an employee, but is more flexible. The value of SPL is the same as paternity leave at £151.97 per week or 90% of your weekly earnings if lower.

 

Fathers can take shared parental leave and pay, even alongside their partners’ maternity allowance, so long as both meet the following:

 

  • You meet the qualifying tests for paternity leave and your partner for maternity leave;

  • You are paid at least £120 per week from your job, before tax;

  • You share responsibility for the baby at birth. This does not apply if your responsibility occurs after the birth;

  • The mother must have earned at least £390 across any 13 of the weeks before the week that the birth is due, not necessarily consecutively.

Parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between themselves, so it is up to you and your partner how you want to structure this.

The pay and leave must be taken in the first year after your child is born or placed with your family, and it may be taken in ‘blocks’, in between by periods of work, all in one time. There is also the option to be off work together or to alternate the leave and pay. Up to 3 separate blocks of leave may be booked each. It is also possible to work for up to 20 days while taking SPL, also referred to as Shared Parental Leave in Touch (or SPLIT).

It is usually better for the mother to stay on maternity leave, however, she may have to shorten this in order to create SPL for the father. Furthermore, as maternity can only be taken in one go, it may be advantageous to end it entirely in favour of SPL, so as to offer more flexibility for the parents. It is best to consult with an employment solicitor if you are unsure on which course of action to take.

 

Shared Parental Leave Benefit in the Republic of Ireland

 

In 2019, Ireland introduced a system of Parental Benefit available for parents of children born or adopted after 1st November 2019. This allows parents to each claim paid leave from work in order to take care of a child for five weeks, together or separately, so long as the child is under two (or within two years of adoption). This can be claimed in one chunk, or spread out over the two years, and the benefit must be applied for within six months of taking parental leave. 

 

Parental Benefit is applicable to anyone who has received maternity, paternity or adoption benefit and each of the five weeks are worth €245, and like Paternity Benefit, is paid by the Department of Social Protection. If your employer continues to pay you during this period, then it may be necessary to have the benefit paid to them instead, which you have the option to do.

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