The Carer's Leave Act 2001 allows employees to leave their employment temporarily to provide full-time care for someone in need of full-time care and attention. You are entitled to take carer’s leave of at least 13 weeks up to a maximum of 104 weeks. If you ask to take less than 13 weeks’ carer’s leave, your employer may refuse your request – see ‘Taking carer’s leave’ below.
Carer's leave from employment is unpaid but the Carer’s Leave Act ensures that those who propose to avail of carer's leave will have their jobs kept open for them for the duration of the leave. You may be eligible for Carer's Benefit if you have enough PRSI contributions. If you do not qualify for Carer's Benefit you may qualify for Carer's Allowance which is a means-tested payment. You can take carer's leave even if you do not qualify for either of these payments.
You must have worked for your employer for a continuous period of 12 months to be eligible for carer's leave.
The person you are proposing to care for, must be deemed to be in need of full-time care and attention by a deciding officer of the Department of Social Protection. The decision by the Department is reached on the basis of information provided by the family doctor (GP) of the person whom you will be caring for. The person you propose to care for must be so disabled as to require:
The person you will be caring for does not need to be a family member or spouse, but could be a friend or colleague.
You may apply to take carer's leave in one continuous period of 104 weeks or for a number of periods not exceeding a total of 104 weeks. If you do not take carer's leave in one continuous period, there must be a gap of at least 6 weeks between the periods of carer’s leave. You must give your employer at least 6 week's notice of your intention to take carer's leave - see 'How to apply' below.
The minimum statutory entitlement to carer's leave is 13 weeks. If you apply for a period of carer's leave which is less than 13 weeks’ duration, your employer may refuse (on reasonable grounds) to allow you to take less than 13 weeks' carer's leave. Where your employer refuses this leave, he or she must specify in writing to you the grounds for refusing you this leave.
However, you and your employer may agree arrangements for carer's leave which are more favourable to you.
You may only be on carer's leave in respect of any one person in need of full-time care at any one time. An exception is where 2 people live together and both are in need of full-time care and attention. In this situation the total amount of carer's leave is 208 weeks (104 for each person being cared for).
If your carer's leave to care for someone has terminated, you cannot commence another period of carer's leave to care for a different person until a period of 6 months has elapsed since the termination of the previous period of carer's leave.
If you have successfully applied for carer's leave from employment, no less than 2 weeks before you intend to commence carer's leave, you and your employer must prepare and sign a document specifying or confirming this arrangement. The document must include some important information, for example, the date when you wish to commence carer's leave, the duration of your carer's leave, and the form in which your leave will be taken. You can find a sample confirmation document in Appendix B of the Carer's Leave Act explanatory booklet (pdf). Your employer signs and retains this document and must give you a copy of it so you can have a record of this arrangement.
You may work while you are on carer’s leave for up to 15 hours a week provided your income from employment or self-employment is less than a weekly income limit set by the Department of Social Protection (DSP). You should contact the Carer's Benefit Section of the DSP for details of the income limit - see 'Where to apply' below. Alternatively you may attend an educational or training course or take up voluntary work for a maximum of 15 hours a week.
Before you start work or training you should inform the Department of Social Protection.
If you are getting Carer's Benefit you will get credited social insurance contributions or credits. If you are on carer's leave but do not get Carer's Benefit, you are still entitled to get credits. You should get your employer complete the application form for carer's leave credits (pdf). This will make sure that your existing cover for social welfare is fully maintained.
The document you agree and sign with your employer confirming you will be taking carer's leave is flexible. This means that your arrangement to take carer's leave can be amended. Even if your leave from employment has already commenced, provided that you and your employer agree, your carer’s leave (or part of it) may be postponed, curtailed or varied as to how it is taken. Then your confirmation of carer’s leave agreement can be amended and signed off by both of you again. Your employer should keep the original copy of the amended agreement and you must be given a copy of this amendment for your own records.
Details about circumstances in which carer's leave may be terminated is available in 'Further information' below.
If you are on carer’s leave, you must give notice in writing to your employer 4 weeks before the date you will return to work, that you intend to return to work.
As regards your employment conditions, generally you are to be treated as if you had been in work during your period of carer’s leave except that you are not entitled to pay. You are only entitled to annual leave and public holidays in respect of the first 13 weeks of carer’s leave.
You may not be dismissed for exercising your right to carer's leave. You are protected against being victimised for taking carer's leave or proposing to take it. This means that your employer may not penalise you by dismissal, unfair treatment including selection for redundancy or an unfavourable change in your conditions of employment.
If you wish to avail of unpaid leave from employment for less than the 13 week minimum set down by the Carer's Leave Act, it is possible to agree this with your employer. You and your employer must agree this in writing, clearly stating the date when you will commence this leave and when you will return from leave. You will need to get in touch with PRSI records section in the Department of Social Protection to ensure that your social insurance record is preserved during this leave - see 'Where to apply' below.
The family doctor (GP) of the individual you propose to care for will need to complete part of the application form for Carer's Benefit (pdf) unless the individual is under 16 and Domiciliary Carer's Allowance is being paid for that person. Your employer will also need to fill in part of this form to confirm that you are an employee, giving details such as when you commenced employment.
The completed application form should then be forwarded to the Carer's Benefit Section at the Department of Social Protection. The Department will then make a decision on the advice of the family doctor as to whether or not this individual requires full-time care and attention. The Department will also assess any eligibility you may have regarding Carer's Benefit.
Not less than 6 weeks before you propose to take carer’s leave from employment, you must make a formal application to your employer for this leave. In exceptional or emergency situations where it is not reasonably practicable to give 6 weeks' notice, you should give notice as soon as it is reasonably possible. You must provide your application for carer's leave in writing to your employer stating:
You can find a sample notice of intention form in Appendix A of the Carer's Leave Act explanatory booklet (pdf).
At least 2 weeks before your carer's leave is due to start you and your employer must sign the confirmation document - see 'Confirmation of carer's leave from employment' above.
Disputes with your employer under the Carer's Leave Act 2001 should be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission within 6 months of the dispute occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit. Disputes arising from the dismissal of an employee in relation to carer's leave are dealt with under the unfair dismissals legislation.
Information about your employment rights and the Carer’s Leave Act 2001 is in this explanatory booklet about the Carer's Leave Act 2001 (pdf). You can get more information from the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service - see 'Where to apply' below.
For further information on Carer's Benefit, contact your local social welfare office or Intreo centre or the Carer's Benefit Section of the Department of Social Protection.
If you are unhappy about a decision of a deciding officer regarding your application for carer's leave from employment, you can appeal this decision.
Information and Customer Services
Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
Carer's Benefit Section
Social Welfare Services Office
Tel:(043) 334 0000
Locall:1890 92 77 70
Department of Social Protection
Tel:(01) 471 5898
Locall:1890 690 690
Carer's leave usually ends on the date set out in the confirmation
document. The leave may also end in the following circumstances:
Following the ending of the carer’s leave, the employer must give
notice of this fact (including the date of return) in writing to the
Department of Social Protection.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.