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 people who want to take carer's leave will have their jobs kept open for them while they are on carer's 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 these payments.
To get carer's leave you must have worked for your employer for a continuous period of 12 months.
The person you will be caring for, must be deemed to be in need of full-time care and attention by a Deciding Officer of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). The Department makes their decision after reviewing information from the family doctor (GP) of the person you will be caring for. The person you will be caring for must be so disabled that they need:
- Continuous supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with their normal personal needs for example, help to eat, drink, wash or dress, or
- Continuous supervision in order to avoid being a danger to themselves
The person you will be caring for does not have to be a family member or spouse, but can be a friend or colleague.
Taking carer’s leave
You can 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 each period of carer’s leave. You must give your employer at least 6 weeks' 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’, your employer can refuse (on reasonable grounds). If your employer refuses this leave, they must explain in writing why they are refusing you this leave.
However, you and your employer may agree arrangements for carer's leave which are more favourable to you.
You can only be on carer's leave for one person in need of full-time care at any one time. However, if 2 people live together and are both are in need of full-time care and attention, you can get carer's leave for both of them. 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 finished, 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.
Confirmation of carer's leave from employment
If you get carer's leave, you and your employer must prepare and sign a document confirming this arrangement at least 2 weeks before you begin your carer's leave. The document must include some important information, for example, the date when you wish to start your carer's leave, the duration of your carer's leave, and the form in which your leave will be taken. Your employer retains this document and must give you a copy of it.
Working while on carer’s leave
You can work for up to 15 hours a week while you are on carer’s leave provided your income from employment or self-employment is less than a weekly income limit of €332.50. (After deductions, this is your take-home pay). The income limit is set by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Alternatively you can 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 tell the Carer’s Benefit section - see ‘Where to apply’ below. During your absence, the person you are caring for must be adequately cared. You can read more in our document on Carer’s Benefit.
Your social insurance (PRSI) record
If you are getting Carer's Benefit or Carer's Allowance, you will get credited social insurance contributions or credits. If you are on carer's leave but do not get Carer's Benefit or Carer's Allowance, you are still entitled to get credits. You should get your employer to complete the application form for carer's leave credits (pdf). This will ensure that your existing cover for social welfare is fully maintained.
Postponing, curtailing or terminating your carer's leave
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, your carer’s leave (or part of it) can be postponed, curtailed or changed, if you and your employer agree to it. Then your confirmation of carer’s leave agreement can be amended and signed 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.
Carer's leave can be terminated in certain circumstances - see below:
- Where the person being cared for no longer needs full-time care
- Where the employee is no longer in a position to provide full-time
care and attention
- Where the person being cared for dies. In these circumstances,
the carer’s leave will end 6 weeks after the death or on the date
specified in the confirmation document – whichever is earlier
- Where an employer is of the opinion that the employee, or the
person receiving the care, no longer meets the conditions for carer’s
leave. In such a situation, the employer may refer the matter to the
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for a decision
- At a date agreed between the employer and the employee.
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
Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Returning to work
If you are on carer’s leave, you must give your employer written notice of your intention to return to work. This notice must be given 4 weeks before you will return to work.
You are not entitled to pay while on carer's leave, but in general you will be treated as if you are in work during carer’s leave. However, you are only entitled to annual leave and public holidays for 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 cannot penalise you by dismissing you or treating you unfairly, this includes or an unfavourable changes to your conditions of employment and redundancy selection.
Unpaid leave from employment (outside of carer's leave)
If you want to take 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 Employment Affairs and Social Protection to ensure that your social insurance record is preserved during this leave - see 'Where to apply' below.
How to apply
The first step to getting carers leave, is to have the DEASP confirm that the person you will be caring for needs that care. To do this you must complete the Carer’s Benefit form.
The family doctor (GP) of the person you will be caring 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.
If you are applying for Carer's Benefit for a second person you should use the application form CARB2 (pdf).
The completed application form should then be forwarded to the Carer's Benefit Section at the Department of Employment Affairs and 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.
If you are unhappy about the DEASP’s decision, you can appeal this decision.
At least 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:
- That you propose to take carer's leave under the Carer's Leave Act 2001 commencing on a specific date
- The way in which you intend to take this leave (that is, in one continuous block, or in a series of blocks)
- That you have applied to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for a decision confirming that the person you will be caring for needs this care.
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.
How to complain
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. 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.
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 Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office or the Carer's Benefit Section of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.