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.
Budget 2019: It was announced in Budget 2019 that a new Parental Benefit Scheme will be introduced. It will be paid at the same rate as Maternity Benefit and Paternity Benefit (from November 2019). Legislation will be required before the scheme comes into effect.
Extension of parental leave to 18 weeks
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.
Age of child
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.
Amount of parental leave
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.
Illness of parent
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.
Employment rights while on parental leave
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.
Social insurance contributions
The Minister for Employment Affairs and 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 Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), 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 DEASP website.
Annual leave and public holidays
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.
- Generally you must have been working for your employer for a year before you are entitled to parental leave. However if your child is very near the age threshold and you have been working for your employer for more than 3 months but less than one year you are entitled to pro-rata parental leave. This is one week's leave for every month of employment completed.
- If you change job and have used part of your parental leave allowance you can use the remainder after one year's employment with your new employer provided your child is still under the qualifying age
- Apart from a refusal on the grounds on non-entitlement, an employer may also postpone the leave for up to 6 months. This must be done before the confirmation document is signed. After that, the leave cannot be postponed without further written agreement. Grounds for such a postponement include lack of cover or the fact that other employees are already on parental leave. Normally only one postponement is allowed, but it may be postponed twice if the reason is seasonal variations in the volume of work.
- Parental leave is to be used only to take care of the child concerned. If the parental leave is taken and used for another purpose the employer is entitled to cancel the leave.
- Employers must keep records of all parental leave taken by their employees. These records must include the period of employment of each employee and the dates and times of the leave taken. Employers must keep these records for 8 years. If an employer fails to keep records they may be liable, on summary conviction, to a class C fine.
- You are entitled to return to your job after your parental leave unless it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to allow you to return to your old job. If this is the case you must be offered a suitable alternative on terms no less favourable compared with the previous job including any improvement in pay or other conditions which occurred while you were on parental leave.
- The legislation protects parents who take parental leave from unfair dismissal.
- Since 8 March 2013, when you return to work after taking parental leave,
you are entitled to ask for a change in your work pattern or working hours
for a set period. Your employer must consider your request but is not
obliged to grant it.
How to apply
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.
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.
Where to apply