Parental leave entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children.
Since 1 September 2019, you can take 22 weeks of parental leave for each eligible child. You must take parental leave before your child’s 12th birthday.
Before 1 September 2019, parental leave was 18 weeks for each eligible child and parents could only take parental leave before a child’s 8th birthday.
Rules about parental leave
The legislation governing parental leave is the Parental Leave Acts 1998 -2019.
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 can take pro-rata parental leave.
You must meet certain criteria to be eligible to take parental leave. You must:
- Be a relevant parent – see ‘Who can take parental leave below’?
- Take the leave before your child’s 12th birthday (16th birthday for a child with a disability)
- Give at least 6 weeks’ notice to your employer
- Unless your employer agrees, take the leave in the way set out in the legislation, either one continuous period or blocks of at least 6 weeks (see ‘How do I take parental leave?’ below)
The legislation only provides for the minimum entitlement to parental leave. Your contract may give you more extensive rights.
Who can take parental leave?
You can take parental leave on behalf of eligible children if you are a relevant parent. The legislation defines a relevant parent as:
- A parent
- The adoptive parent
- A person acting in loco parentis (this means acting as a parent to the child)
What are the age limits for children?
You can take parental leave for your child up until their 12th birthday.
If you adopted your child between the age of 10 and 12, you can take parental leave for them for up to 2 years after the date of the adoption order.
If your child has a disability or a long-term illness, you can take parental leave until they are 16 years of age.
An extension of parental leave may be allowed if illness or another incapacity stopped you from taking the leave before your child reached the age limit.
How much parental leave can I take?
Under the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 the amount of parental leave that you can take has increased from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. This increase is being phased in over a 2-year period.
- From 1 September 2019, you can take up to 22 weeks parental leave
- From 1 September 2020, you can take up to 26 weeks parental leave
If you have already taken some, or all of your previous entitlement of parental leave per child, you can still take the extra parental leave, if your child is still eligible.
Example – Peter’s son Josh is 8. Peter has taken 10 weeks of parental leave to care for his son. From 1 September 2019 Peter is entitled to an additional 4 weeks parental leave. This brings his total entitlement from 18 weeks to 22 weeks. Since he has already taken 10 of these he has 12 weeks left. From 1 September 2020 Peter will be entitled to a further 4 weeks of parental leave. He must take this leave before Josh turns 12.
If you have more than one child, parental leave is limited to 18 weeks in a 12-month period. This can be longer if your employer agrees. Parents of twins or triplets can take more than 18 weeks of parental leave in a year.
If you work part-time, your entitlement to parental leave is reduced on a pro-rata basis.
If you work part-time, your entitlement to parental leave remains at 22 working weeks, whatever length your working week may be. This means if you work 50% of a normal working week, the actual number of days parental leave granted will be 11 full working weeks’ worth. This will increase to 26 working weeks from 1 September 2020. Again, this means if you work 50% of a normal working week, the actual number of days parental leave granted will then be 13 full working weeks’ worth.
In some circumstances, it may be necessary for an employee and employer to carry out a calculation of what that employee's working week is based on the number of hours worked in the previous 22 weeks.
How can I take parental leave?
From 1 September 2019, you are entitled to 22 weeks parental leave. You can take this leave as:
- One continuous period of leave or
- 2 separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks each
- If your employer consents, broken into working days and/or hours
If you have already taken parental leave under the previous entitlement of 18 weeks, you can take the remainder of your entitlement to parental leave in blocks of at least one week.
There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the 2 periods of parental leave per child.
Can I share my unpaid parental leave with my partner?
Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. If you both work for the same employer and your employer agrees, you may transfer 14 weeks of your parental leave entitlement to the other parent.
What happens if I become sick while on parental leave?
If you become sick while on parental leave and you are unable to care for your child, the leave can be suspended for the duration of the illness. You must give written notice and evidence of your illness to your employer as soon as is reasonably practicable. The parental leave resumes after the illness. During the illness you are treated as an employee who is sick.
Does taking parental leave affect my other employment rights?
You are not entitled to pay or superannuation (pension contributions) from your employer while you are on parental leave. Apart from the loss of pay and pension contributions, your position remains as if no parental leave had been taken and you are 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.
What happens to my social insurance contributions?
You can get credited PRSI contributions while you are taking parental leave. You can find more information about credited contributions and parental leave on welfare.ie.
Your employer must write to the Records Update Section of Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), setting out the weeks you have not worked, so that you can get credited PRSI contributions for this time (see 'Where to apply' below).
Can my employer refuse an application for parental leave?
Your employer can only refuse parental leave if you are not entitled to take it.
Your employer can also postpone your parental leave for up to 6 months. They must do this 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 your leave 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 you take parental leave and use it for another purpose your employer is entitled to cancel the leave.
Can I return to my old job after parental leave?
You are entitled to return to your job after taking parental leave unless it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to allow you to return to the same 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 improvements in pay or other conditions which occurred while you were on parental leave.
The legislation protects parents who take parental leave from unfair dismissal.
When you return to work after taking parental leave, you are entitled to ask for more flexible working arrangements – specifically, a change in your work pattern or working hours for a set period. Your employer must consider your request and give you a response within 4 weeks but does not have to grant it.
What happens if I change jobs?
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 – currently 12.
What records does my employer have to keep?
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 parental leave taken. Employers must keep these records for 12 years.
How to apply for parental leave
You must give notice to your employer of your intention to take parental leave.
- Give your notice in writing
- Inform your employer at least 6 weeks before the leave is due to start
- Include the start date, the manner in which the leave will be taken and the duration of the leave in your notice
- Sign a confirmation document with your employer confirming the details of your parental leave at least 4 weeks before the leave is due to start
You can get more information in the frequently asked questions (pdf) on parental leave on justice.ie.
For more information on your employment rights you can contact the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service - see 'Where to apply' below.
How to make a complaint?
Disputes about parental leave can be referred by the employee or the employer to the Workplace Relations Commission 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 if there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint from being brought within the normal time limit.