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Explanatory Memorandum to Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002

Article 4: Paternity leave

Article 4 establishes provision for the introduction of a new statutory right to two weeks’ paternity leave.  Regulations will provide for this to be taken in a single block of two weeks or, if regulations so provide, a period of one week or two non-consecutive periods of a week.  The intention is to make paternity leave available to fathers following the birth of a child or the placement of a child for adoption.  The requirement for paternity leave will be set out in the regulations.

Article 4 is similar in construction to the provisions in the ERO in relation to parental leave, and it will be inserted into the ERO.

Regulations will be made making paternity leave available:

  • for the purpose of caring for a newborn child or supporting the mother;

  • for the purpose of caring for a child newly placed for adoption or supporting the adoptive parent; and

  • to an employee who has a relationship (to be specified in regulations) with the newborn child, or the child newly placed for adoption, and has a relationship (to be specified in regulations) with the mother or adoptive parent. It is intended that paternity leave will be available to an employee who expects to be parenting the newborn child or the child placed for adoption. It is planned that employees who are entitled to paternity leave will have an obligation to give their employer a self-certificate of entitlement to leave.

As it is intended that adoption leave will only be available to one spouse in cases where a married couple adopts a child, paternity leave will be available to the other spouse.  For practical reasons there will be slight differences in how paternity leave operates between those adopting within NI and GB and those adopting abroad.  Provision for adoptions outside the UK will be made in regulations.

Paternity leave will be available only to an employee who has completed a period of qualifying service.  It is intended that the requirement will be continuous service with the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the fifteenth week before the child is expected to be born, or in the case of adoption by the week in which an approved match with the child is made.

An employee will have the right to return to a job following a period of paternity leave.  It is intended that regulations will allow for:

  • the right to return to the same job following an absence of one week or two weeks’ paternity leave in most cases; and

  • protection for employees from detriment and unfair dismissal in connection with paternity leave.

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