The Parental Leave Act 1998, as amended by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006, allows parents to take parental leave from employment in respect of certain children. A person acting in loco parentis with respect to an eligible child is also eligible.
On 8 March 2013 the European Union (Parental Leave) Regulations 2013 increased the amount of parental leave available to each parent per child from 14 weeks to 18 weeks. (Those who have taken or are taking 14 weeks’ parental leave are also entitled to this extra 4 weeks.) The Regulations extended the age limit for a child with a long-term illness to 16 years. They also provide that a parent returning from parental leave may request a change in working hours – see ‘Rules’ below. The Regulations apply to all children who qualify for parental leave.
Leave can be taken in respect of a child no later than the child's 8th birthday. If a child was adopted between the age of 6 and 8, leave in respect of that child may be taken up to 2 years after the date of the adoption order. In the case of a child with a disability or a long-term illness leave may be taken up to 16 years of age. In addition an extension may also be allowed where illness or other incapacity prevented the employee taking the leave within the normal period.
Since 8 March 2013 the amount of parental leave available for each child amounts to a total of 18 working weeks per child. Where an employee has more than one child, parental leave is limited to 18 weeks in a 12-month period. This can be longer if the employer agrees. Parents of twins or triplets can take more than 18 weeks of parental leave in a year.
The 18 weeks per child may be taken in one continuous period or in 2 separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the 2 periods of parental leave per child. However, if your employer agrees you can separate your leave into periods of days or even hours.
Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. Unless you and your partner work for the same employer, you can only claim your own parental leave entitlement (18 weeks per child). If you both work for the same employer and your employer agrees you may transfer 14 weeks of your parental leave entitlement to each other.
If the parent becomes ill while on parental leave and is unable to care for the child the leave can be suspended for the duration of the illness. In order to suspend the parental leave the employee must give written notice and relevant evidence of the illness to the employer as soon as is reasonably practicable. The parental leave resumes after the illness. During the illness the parent is treated as an employee who is sick.
Taking parental leave does not affect other employment rights you have. Apart from the loss of pay and pension contributions, your position remains as if no parental leave had been taken. This means, for example, that time spent on parental leave can be used to accumulate your annual leave entitlement.
The legislation only provides for the minimum entitlement. Your contract may give you more extensive rights.
The Minister for Social Protection has introduced Regulations to ensure preservation of social insurance (PRSI) records for employees who take parental leave. Your employer must write to the Records Update Section of Department of Social Protection (DSP), detailing the weeks you have not worked, so that you can get credited PRSI contributions for this time (see 'Where to apply' below). You can find information about credited contributions and parental leave on the DSP website.
While on parental leave, you must be regarded for employment rights purposes as still working. This means that you can build up annual leave while on parental leave. If your annual holidays fall due during parental leave, they may be taken at a later time. You are entitled to any public holidays that occur while you are on parental leave. Your public holiday entitlement can be added to the end of your parental leave.
You must give written notice to your employer of your intention to take parental leave. You should inform your employer in writing at least 6 weeks before the leave is due to start. The notice should state the starting date and how long the leave will last. After this not less than 4 weeks before the leave is due to start, you will need to sign a document with your employer confirming the details of the leave.
For more information on parental leave you can contact the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service - see 'Where to apply' below. You can read more details in the booklet, Your Parental Leave Rights Explained (pdf).
Disputes about parental leave may be referred by the employee or the employer within 6 months of the dispute or complaint 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.
Department of Social Protection
Tel:(01) 471 5898
Locall:1890 690 690
Information and Customer Service
Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
Fax:(059) 917 8909
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000. The Phone Service will operate Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm during January 2017. You can also visit your local Citizens Information Centre.