Case study: Taking parental leave

John and Mary want to take parental leave for their son Michael, who is 5 years old. John has been working for his employer for 9 months and wants to take the leave in 2 months' time. John’s employer has said that he cannot spare John at this time, and that John is not entitled to parental leave as he hasn't been working for him for a year.

John's employer is correct about the length of service. After 3 months' service, an employee is entitled to reduced parental leave if the child is nearing the upper age limit for parental leave. But as John’s son will not be 12 for another 7 years, this does not apply to John's claim. John should consider taking his leave when he has one year's service. John's employer could postpone the leave then for a number of reasons, for example, due to the nature of John's duties. However, unless John is involved in work with a seasonal variation, the leave could only be postponed once for up to 6 months.

Mary has been with her employer for 15 months. Her employer says that parental leave is only for emergencies and in any case, it doesn't apply if the employee has already had 26 weeks' maternity leave. Is this right?

No, Mary's employer is mistaken. Parental leave is not confined to emergency situations and the only stipulation is that the parent uses the leave to care for the child. Mary's employer may be confusing parental leave with force majeure leave. Also, the fact that Mary took maternity leave does not affect parental leave as they are completely separate types of leave set down by different laws.

As a first step, Mary should give her employer at least 6 weeks' written notice of her intention to take parental leave. This notice should also include the date she proposes to start taking parental leave, the manner in which she wants to take the leave, and the duration of the leave. Mary should keep a copy of this notice. If she has continuing difficulties with her employer, Mary should make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission using the online complaint form available on

Page edited: 30 August 2019