Leave for parents

Parents have a right to time off work to look after their children. Parents have several different types of statutory leave entitlements, for example, maternity leave, adoptive leave, paternity leave, parental leave and parent’s leave.

This table explains the differences between the types of leave for parents.

Leave Who gets it? How long? Is it paid?
Maternity leave Female employees 26 weeks and up to 16 unpaid weeks Yes, Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks
Adoptive leave Adoptive mothers, men adopting alone 24 weeks and up to 16 unpaid weeks Yes, Adoptive Benefit is paid for 24 weeks
Paternity leave New parents of children under 6 months of age (but not the mother of the child) 2 weeks Yes, Paternity Benefit is paid for 2 weeks
Parental leave Parents and guardians of children under 12 22 weeks No, it’s unpaid
Parent’s leave Parents of children under 1 year of age (or in first year of adoption 2 weeks Yes, Parent’s Benefit is paid for 2 weeks

Maternity leave

If you become pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to take 26 weeks maternity leave. Employers do not have to pay you while you are on maternity leave. You may be entitled to Maternity Benefit. You are also entitled to take up to 16 weeks of additional unpaid maternity leave, which is not covered by Maternity Benefit.

Adoptive leave

An adopting mother or sole male adopter is entitled to 24 weeks’ adoptive leave, beginning on the day the child is placed with them. Employers do not have to pay an employee for adoptive leave. You may be entitled to Adoptive Benefit. You are also entitled to take up to 16 weeks’ additional unpaid adoptive leave, but this period is not covered by Adoptive Benefit.

Paternity leave

New parents (other than the mother of the child) are entitled to 2 weeks’ paternity leave from employment or self-employment following the birth or adoption of a child. Employers do not have to pay you while you are on paternity leave. You may be eligible for Paternity Benefit.

Parental leave

From 1 September 2019 each parent is entitled to 22 weeks’ unpaid parental leave (this will increase to 26 weeks from 1 September 2020). You must take parental leave before the child is 12 years of age, or 16 years of age if the child has a disability. In general, you must have been working for your employer for at least 12 months to be entitled to parental leave. There is no social welfare payment available.

Parent’s leave

Parent’s leave is a new statutory entitlement for parents in employment or self-employment. It aims to let working parents spend more time with their baby or adopted child during the first year. Each parent is entitled to 2 weeks leave for a child born or adopted on or after 1 November 2019. You may be eligible for Parent’s Benefit.

Page edited: 19 November 2019