Parental leave

What is parental leave?

Parental leave lets parents take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children. You can take up to 26 weeks’ parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday.

Generally, you must have been working for your employer for a year before you are entitled to parental leave.

Parental leave is different to parent’s leave. You may also want to read about other statutory entitlements for parents, such as maternity leave, adoptive leave and paternity leave. Or, see an overview of all the types of leave available to parents.

Can I get parental leave?

You must meet certain criteria to be eligible for parental leave. You must:

  • Be a relevant parent. This means you are either a parent, an adoptive parent, or a person acting in ‘loco parentis’ (acting as a parent to the child)
  • Take the leave before your child’s 12th birthday (or 16th birthday if your child has a disability or long-term illness)
  • Give at least 6 weeks’ notice to your employer
  • Take the leave in either one continuous period, or in blocks of at least 6 weeks (unless your employer agrees to let you take the leave differently – see ‘Do I have to take all my parental leave at the same time?’ below)

The legislation only sets out the minimum entitlement to parental leave. Depending on your contract of employment, you may have more extensive rights to parental leave.

Length of service

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 limit 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’.

Age limits for children

You can take parental leave for each 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?

You can take up to 26 weeks parental leave for each eligible child. This is set out in the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019.

If you have more than one child, parental leave is limited to 26 weeks in a 12-month period. This can be longer if your employer agrees.

What if I have twins or triplets?

Parents of twins or triplets can take more than 26 weeks of parental leave in a year.

What if I work part-time?

If you work part-time, your entitlement to parental leave is reduced on a ‘pro-rata basis’.

This means that, if you work 50% of a normal working week, you can take 13 full working weeks’ worth of parental leave.

In some cases, you and your employer will need to calculate what your normal working week is, based on the number of hours worked in the previous 26 weeks.

Do I have to take all my parental leave at the same time?

You are entitled to 26 weeks parental leave for each eligible child. You can take this leave as either:

  • One continuous period of leave
  • 2 separate blocks of at least 6 weeks each (there must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the 2 periods of parental leave per child).

You can break your parental leave into working days or hours (or a combination of both) if your employer agrees to this. For example, you can ask to take one day of parental leave a week until the entire 26-week allowance is used up.

Can I share my unpaid parental leave with my partner?

Both parents have an equal, separate entitlement to parental leave. This means you are both entitled to 26 weeks leave.

If you both work for the same employer and your employer agrees, you can transfer 14 weeks of your parental leave entitlement to the other parent.

What happens if I change jobs before taking all my leave?

If you change job and have used part of your parental leave allowance, you can use the remainder of your allowance after one year's employment with your new employer (once your child is still under 12).

Protection of your employment rights

Your employments rights are protected during parental leave. In general, you are treated as being in employments while you are on parental leave.

The only exception to this is your right to pay or superannuation (pension contributions) from your employer while you are on parental leave.

Public holidays and annual leave

You can continue to build up annual leave while on parental leave. If your holidays fall 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 if I become sick while on parental leave?

If you get sick while on parental leave and 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.

What happens to my social insurance contributions?

You can get credited PRSI contributions while you are taking parental leave. Credited PRSI contributions can protect your social insurance record and your entitlement to benefits in the future.

Your employer must write to the Client Eligibility Services section of Department of Social Protection (DSP), setting out the weeks you have not worked, so that you can get credited PRSI contributions for this time.

Can my employer refuse my request for parental leave?

Your employer can only refuse parental leave if you are not entitled to take it.

Can my employer postpone my parental leave?

Your employer can postpone your parental leave for up to 6 months. They must do this before signing the confirmation document. After that, your leave cannot be postponed without further written agreement.

Reasons for postponement can include:

  • Lack of cover while you are on leave
  • The fact that other employees are already on parental leave.

Normally parental leave may only be postponed once. However, your leave may be postponed twice if the reason is seasonal variations in the volume of work.

Can my employer cancel my parental leave?

Parental leave is to be used only to take care of the child concerned. If you take parental leave and use it for another reason, your employer is entitled to cancel the leave.

Returning to work after parental leave

You are entitled to return to your job after taking parental leave, unless it is not reasonably practicable for your employer to allow you to return to the same job.

If this is the case, you must be offered a suitably alternative job within the business. The alternative job cannot have less favourable conditions compared with your previous job, for example, it must have the same (or better) pay conditions. You are also entitled to any improvements in pay or other conditions which occurred while you were on parental leave.

Parents who take parental leave are protected from unfair dismissal.

Can I ask for more flexible working arrangements?

When you return to work after taking parental leave, you can request changes to your working hours or patterns. This is usually proposed for a set period of time. Your employer must consider your request and give you a response within 4 weeks. Your employer does not have to agree to your request.

How can I make a complaint?

If you have a complaint about your parental leave entitlement, you should first discuss this with your employer.

If you cannot resolve the issue informally, either you or the employer can refer the complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) within 6 months of the dispute or complaint occurring. The time limit can be extended for a further 6 months, but only if there is a reasonable cause for the delay.

You can submit your complaint using the WRC’s online complaint form.

Read more about how to make a complaint, including details of the WRC adjudication process.

How to apply for parental leave

If you plan to take parental leave, you must give written notice to your employer at least 6 weeks before the leave is due to start.

Your written notice should include:

  • The date you plan to start parental leave
  • The way in which the leave will be taken (for example, in one continuous block of 26 weeks or 1 day off a week)
  • The duration of the leave

You must 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.

Employers should write to the Client Eligibility Services section of Department of Social Protection (DSP), confirming the duration, number of weeks and exact dates of parental leave.

More information

The legislation covering parental leave is the Parental Leave Acts 1998 - 2019.

You can get more information in the frequently asked questions about parental leave (pdf) on justice.ie.

You can also contact the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service.

Client Eligibility Services

Department of Social Protection,
McCarter's Road,
Buncrana,
Donegal,
Co. Donegal,
F93 CH79

Tel: (01) 471 5898 or 0818 690690

Workplace Relations Commission - Information and Customer Service

O'Brien Road
Carlow
R93 E920

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 0818 80 80 90
Page edited: 16 February 2022