Carer’s leave allows employees to leave work temporarily to provide full-time care and attention for someone who needs it. You can take carer’s leave for a minimum of 13 weeks and 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 ‘How long is carer’s leave?’ below.
Carer’s leave from employment is unpaid but your job will be kept open for when you return.
You may be able to get a social welfare payment from the Department of Social Protection (DSP). If you have enough PRSI contributions, you may qualify for Carer's Benefit. If you cannot get 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.
Rules about carer's leave
Who can get carer's leave?
To get carer’s leave, you must have worked for your employer for 12 months without a break in employment.
The person you will be caring for must need full-time care and attention. A deciding officer of the DSP will decide whether they need this care after checking with their GP. The person must need someone with them at all times to:
- Keep them safe and help them throughout the day with their normal personal needs, such as eating, drinking, washing and dressing, or
- Protect them from being a danger to themselves
The person you care for does not have to be a family member or spouse, but can be a friend or colleague.
How long is carer’s leave?
You can apply to take carer’s leave in one continuous period of up to 104 weeks or for a number of shorter periods that add up to a maximum 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 that you plan to take carer’s leave – see ‘How to apply’ below.
The minimum period of carer’s leave you can take is 13 weeks. If you apply for a period of less than 13 weeks, your employer can refuse (if they have good reason). If your employer refuses this leave, they must explain why in writing.
However, you and your employer may agree arrangements for carer’s leave which suit you better.
One award of carer’s leave covers only one person in need of full-time care at any one time. However, if 2 people live together and both need full-time care and attention, you can get carer’s leave for each of them. In this case, the total maximum amount of carer’s leave is 208 weeks (104 for each person in your care).
When your carer’s leave has finished, you must wait 6 months before you can take another period of carer’s leave to care for a different person.
Can I take less than 13 weeks’ unpaid leave (outside of carers 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, you may be able to arrange this with your employer. You and your employer must agree the plan in writing, clearly stating the date when you will start the leave and when you will return to work.
You will need to contact the PRSI records section in the DSP to ensure you keep up your social insurance record during this leave – see ‘Where to apply’ below.
How much will I be paid during carer’s leave?
Your employer does not pay you while you are on carer’s leave. However, if you have enough PRSI contributions, you can apply for Carer’s Benefit. If you do not have enough PRSI contributions, you can apply for a means-tested Carer’s Allowance.
Confirming carer’s leave
You and your employer must sign a document confirming the arrangement for carer’s leave at least 2 weeks before you begin the leave. This agreement (called the confirmation document) must include:
- The date when you wish to start your carer’s leave
- How long it will last
- How you will take it (in one block or in more than one block)
Your employer keeps this document and must give you a copy of it.
Can I work while on carer’s leave?
You can work for up to 18.5 hours a week in employment or self-employment while you are on carer’s leave, as long as you earn less than €332.50 a week. (This is your take-home pay after deductions such as tax, PRSI and union dues.) The hours limit increased from 15 hours to 18.5 hours in January 2020.
Alternatively, you can attend an educational or training course or do voluntary work for a maximum of 18.5 hours a week.
Before you start work or training you should tell the Carer’s Benefit section – see ‘Where to apply’ below. While you are out of the house, the person you are caring for must be well looked after. You can read more in our document on Carer’s Benefit.
What happens to my PRSI record?
If you are getting Carer’s Benefit or Carer’s Allowance, you will get credited social insurance contributions (called credits). If you are on carer’s leave but do not get Carer’s Benefit or Carer’s Allowance, you will get PRSI credits. Getting PRSI credits means you will continue to qualify for social welfare benefits.
Can I postpone it or end it early?
The document you agree and sign with your employer about taking carer’s leave is flexible. This means you can change your arrangements to take carer’s leave. Even if you have already started your leave from employment, you can postpone all or some of it until later, cut it short or otherwise change the arrangements. You and your employer must both agree to the change. Then you can add the changes to the carer’s leave agreement and sign it again. Your employer should keep the amended agreement and give you a copy.
Carer’s leave can end in the following circumstances:
- The person being cared for no longer needs full-time care and attention.
- You are no longer able to provide full-time care and attention.
- The person being cared for dies. If this happens, your carer’s leave will end 6 weeks after the death or on the date specified in the agreement with your employer – whichever is earlier.
- Your employer thinks that you, or the person receiving the care, no longer meet the conditions for carer’s leave. In this case, the employer may ask the DSP to decide on the issue.
- At a date agreed between you and your employer.
Returning to work
You must give your employer at least 4 weeks’ notice in writing that you plan to return to work. When your carer’s leave ends, your employer must write to tell the DSP the date of your return to work.
Other employment rights
- In general, you will be treated as if you are in work during carer’s leave.
- You are entitled to annual leave and public holidays for the first 13 weeks of carer’s leave.
- You must not be dismissed for taking carer’s leave.
- If you take or plan to take carer’s leave, you must not be victimised. This means that your employer cannot penalise or treat you unfairly by, for example, giving you worse conditions of employment or selecting you for redundancy.
How to apply
1. Apply to the DSP
The DSP must confirm that the person you will be caring for needs that care. The first step to getting carer’s leave is to complete the application form for Carer's Benefit (pdf).
The GP of the person you will be caring for must complete part of the form. If the person is under 16 and Domiciliary Carer’s Allowance is being paid for them, the GP does not need to complete part of the form.
Your employer must also 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).
Send the completed application form to the Carer’s Benefit Section at the DSP. See ‘Where to apply’ below.
The DSP will decide whether or not the person needs full-time care and attention, following the advice of the GP. They will also decide whether you qualify for Carer’s Benefit.
If you are unhappy about the DSP’s decision, you can appeal this decision.
2. Apply to your employer
At least 6 weeks before you plan to take carer’s leave from employment, you must apply formally in writing to your employer for this leave. In exceptional or emergency situations where you cannot give 6 weeks’ notice, you should give notice as soon as possible. In your letter you must state:
- You wish to take carer’s leave under the Carer’s Leave Act 2001
- The date you want to start the carer’s leave
- The way in which you intend to take this leave (that is, in one block, or in a series of shorter blocks)
- You have asked the DSP to confirm 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 agreement on carer’s leave – see ‘Confirming carer’s leave’ above.
How to complain
If you have a complaint or dispute with your employer over carer’s leave, you should complain to the Workplace Relations Commission within 6 months of the dispute. The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only where you have a good reason for not bringing the complaint within the normal time limit.
You must use the online complaint form at workplacerelations.ie.
If you are unfairly dismissed due to carer’s leave, your dispute will be dealt with under the legislation on unfair dismissals.
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 DSP