An employee is entitled to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions of employment as if they had not been absent on paternity leave.
They are also entitled to benefit from any general improvements to the rate of pay or other terms and conditions introduced while they were away.
Shared parental leave and pay
In addition, fathers/partners may be eligible for shared parental leave and pay, which was introduced in Northern Ireland in April 2015.
Return to work where parental leave is taken immediately after paternity leave
Employees who qualify for parental leave may take some of this leave immediately after the end of their paternity leave - see parental leave and time off for dependants.
A period of parental leave of four weeks or less has no impact on the employee's right of return.
An employee who takes a period of parental leave of more than four weeks straight after the end of their paternity leave is entitled to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions of employment as if they had not been absent.
However, if it is not reasonably practicable for you to let them return to their old job, you should offer them a job:
- that is both suitable and appropriate for them to do in the circumstances
- on terms and conditions that are no less favourable than those for their original job
If you offer the employee a job that fulfils the criteria above and they unreasonably refuse it, they will have effectively resigned. You should put the offer in writing and retain a copy. The offer should be as detailed as possible.
If you offer the employee a job that doesn't fulfil the above criteria, the employee may:
- resign and claim constructive dismissal - the employee may raise a grievance about this with you first
- raise a grievance with you, which may result in an industrial tribunal claim for detrimental treatment if you fail to address it
You should try to consult with employees during their paternity-parental leave about any proposed changes to their job in preparation for their return.
Flexible working requests
Providing they meet the qualifying criteria, an employee returning to work may make a request to work flexibly, eg to work from home or do part-time hours. Read more on flexible working: the law and best practice.