Many employees find it tough to balance their work responsibilities with the demands placed on them in their home and family lives. This is never more obvious than with the return of schools this week – school drop offs and collections, preparing healthy lunches for fussy little eaters, extra-curricular activities to attend, homework battles and an increase in time spent stuck in traffic are all too familiar occurrences come September….
Employers can support their staff by helping them adjust to their new daily routine through flexible working options and/or reduced hours working arrangements. Employers, however, will need to manage these requests carefully, ensuring there are no substantially adverse effects on their business. Very recently, there has been a number of changes made to Parental Leave that employers should be aware of.
As an employer, you will now need to update your Parental Leave policies to reflect these new changes (If you use our Bright Contracts package, we have updated these for you already in the Handbook section!). You need to put in place a process for keeping Parental Leave records – these need to be retained for 12 years.
You should review every application for Parental Leave very carefully – weighing up the impact of this request for both the staff member and your business. Parental Leave can be taken as either a block period or as single days. Staff must give you 6 weeks notice of any leave they wish to take. You can postpone a Parental Leave application request, based on business needs, for up to 6 months.
There is no doubt that employers are increasingly supporting their staff by helping them to balance the demands of working versus homelife. In this current climate of skills shortages and demands for talented, committed staff, it is hoped that progressive steps such as flexible working options will enable parents, juggling these conflicting demands, to remain in the workplace and feel supported by their employer when doing so.
Book a demo of Bright Contracts today to find out how you can keep your Parental Leave policies updated and compliant with employment legislation.
From 1st October 2017, the period for which Maternity Benefit is paid has been extended in cases where a baby is born prematurely. A premature birth is described as one at less than 37 weeks’ gestation. It is estimated that every year in Ireland approximately 4,500 babies are born prematurely.
Currently, under the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004, a mother is entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave and 16 weeks’ unpaid leave. Maternity leave normally starts two weeks before the babies expected due date or on the date of the birth of the child should it be earlier.
Under the new amendment, where a child is born prematurely the mother’s paid maternity leave will be extended by the equivalent of the duration between the actual date of birth of the premature baby and the date when the maternity leave was expected to start. For example, where a baby is born in the 30th week of gestation the mother would have an additional entitlement of approximately 7 weeks of maternity leave and benefit i.e. from the date of birth in the 30th week to the two weeks before the expected date of confinement. This additional period will be added onto the mother’s normal entitlement to 26 weeks of maternity leave and benefit, where the mother meets the ordinary qualifying criteria.
Mothers of preterm babies are advised to contact the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), email email@example.com, to arrange the additional payment.
Babies surviving from the earliest gestations, such as 23 weeks, can spend months in a neonatal unit in hospital, by the time a premature baby gets to go home, a mother’s maternity leave can almost be used up. This new change has been heralded as a positive step in supporting parents during a difficult time.
In September 2016, fathers of children born in Ireland became eligible for the first time to take up to two weeks’ paternity leave and to receive Paternity Benefit from the Department of Social Protection. Statistics collated from the first few months of the scheme show, however, that just one in four fathers eligible for the scheme chose to avail of it. This is in stark contrast to the expectation that 60% of eligible fathers would avail of the scheme when it was first announced.
Just over 5,000 paternity benefit applications were awarded during the first three months of the scheme going live, with County Longford, Kerry, Roscommon, and Clare having the fewest applicants. A larger uptake, however, was seen in County Dublin, Cork and Kilkenny.
A further 7,500 paternity benefit claims were subsequently awarded in the first four months of 2017. Under the new scheme, eligible fathers are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave. The two-week leave can be taken at any point within 28 weeks of the birth or adoption of a child, but the two weeks must be taken together.
A social welfare benefit of €235 per week is paid for the two weeks. It is at an employer’s discretion if they wish to top up this payment to the full weekly wage normally earned by the employee. Despite the low uptake so far, it is hoped that the number of applicants will increase as the scheme enters its second year in September.
Current statistics also don’t reflect fathers who may be delaying their paternity leave, for example, fathers whose child was born on February 28 this year can take it at any time up to September 1, 2017.
Guidance on how employers should treat Paternity Benefit and when it should be entered in Thesaurus Payroll Manager can be found here: https://www.thesaurus.ie/docs/2017/paternity-benefit/taxation-of-paternity-benefit/
Related article: Equality for working Dads with new Paternity Leave
In August Revenue issued guidance for the new Paternity Benefit which was introduced in respect of Births and Adoptions on or after 1st September, 2016.
Paternity Benefit will be liable for income tax but not PRSI or USC. All employees who pay their tax through the PAYE system will automatically have their annual tax credits and rate bands reduced by the amount of benefit paid. Employers and pension providers will be notified of the adjusted tax credits and cut-off points on their Employer Tax Credit certificates.
Paternity Benefit should not be included on Forms P45, P60 and P35L.
Paternity Benefit is payable at the minimum rate of €230 per week for two weeks and must be taken in one block. Although some employers can pay employees while on Paternity Leave, however this is not a requirement. In such cases, the Paternity Benefit should be paid to the employer. If you have any queries on the appropriate payments, please direct them to the Department of Social Protection.
Over the next number of weeks we are going to look at Working Time Protected Leave legislation in Ireland, this legislation is in place to protect employees and includes leave such as; Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave, Carer’s Leave, Parental Leave & Force Majeure Leave. Today we will start with Paternity Leave.
In last year’s budget, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition had agreed to legislate to allow for fathers/partners to take two weeks’ paid paternal leave. The legislation will allow fathers to take the leave at any stage within 26 weeks of the birth or placement of the child in adoption situations.
The new legislation is due to come into force in September this year and when it does it will mean that for the first time in history, the role of fathers in postnatal care will be formally recognized on our little island. From September, every employer in Ireland must offer new fathers/partners two weeks’ paternity leave following the birth of a child. The state will pay fathers €460 for the leave, which is in line with current maternity pay. However, as with the Maternity pay, employers are under no obligation to pay the father while they are out on Paternity Leave. Remember to update your company handbook to include a policy for the new Paternity Leave when it does come in.
Great though it is to finally have some leave in place for fathers, we still have a long way to go before reaching the dizzy heights of paternity leave Scandinavian-style, where the model is usually one of paid parental leave to be shared between both parents, with some non-transferable months. In Sweden for example, parents can take up to sixteen months of leave, paid up to 80% of salary (with a cap of €4,000 per month). Our closest neighbours in the UK allow 2 weeks paid Paternity Leave but have also introduced “Shared Parental Leave” of up to 52 weeks after the birth/placement of a child which can be shared between both parents. Ireland, generally comes bottom of the European table in terms of family leave, so Paternity Leave, even at just 2 weeks is very welcome.
It has been revealed today that the State will commence paying out two weeks’ worth of paternity benefit from June next year. The measure is a central plank of the Coalition's childcare strategy due to be announced as part of next month's Budget.
There will also be a special focus on reducing the cost of pre-school and after-school care services, especially for families who have children with special needs. The childcare package will be treated in a similar fashion in the Budget to the reform of the Universal Social Charge (USC).
Meanwhile, Children's Minister James Reilly said reducing the cost of pre-school and crèche facilities for families, especially those with children with special needs, will also be kicked started in 2016. However, he did not specify the form in which benefits will be paid to families.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dr Reilly said the package would aim to end "poor quality childcare" that can have a "detrimental effect on children".
Specific measures aimed at reducing the burden on parents will be brought in incrementally over the life-span of the next Government. But sources say there are considerable negotiations still required before an overall package is agreed. However, agreement has been reached on the issue of paternity benefit.