Checklist when applying for carer's leave
There are various different procedures involved when you apply for carer’s leave and it is important to ensure that they are followed correctly.
1. Qualifying for carer’s leave
The qualifying requirements for carer’s leave are that:
- You must have worked for your employer for a continuous period of 12 months and
- The Department of Social Protection. (DSP) must decide that the person you are proposing to care for is in need of full-time care and attention – see 2 below.
2. Applying to DSP for a decision that the person needs full-time
If the person you intend to care for is over 16, their GP must complete part of the application form for Carer's Benefit (pdf). This is not necessary if the person is under 16 and Domiciliary Care Allowance is being paid for them. Your employer must also fill in part of this form giving your employment details. You should send the completed application form to DSP, who will decide whether or not this person requires full-time care and attention. DSP will also check if you are eligible for Carer's Benefit.
3. Working out the amount of carer’s leave
Under the Carer’s Leave Act 2001 you are entitled to at least 13 weeks’ carer’s leave up to a maximum of 104 weeks. You can apply to take it in one continuous period or for a number of periods amounting to a total of 104 weeks. There must be a gap of at least 6 weeks between the periods of carer’s leave.
If your employer agrees you can take a shorter period of leave. However, your employer can refuse (on reasonable grounds) to allow you to take carer's leave of less than 13 weeks and must give you the reasons for the refusal in writing.
4. Giving notice to your employer
You must give your employer at least 6 weeks’ notice of your intention to take carer's leave. You should apply in writing saying when and how you intend to take carer’s leave, whether it will be in one block or separate periods. You should state that you have applied to DSP for a decision on the person for whom you propose to care. You can find a sample notice of intention form in Appendix A of the Carer's Leave Act explanatory booklet (pdf). In emergency situations where it is not practicable to give 6 weeks' notice, you should give notice as soon as it is reasonably possible.
5. Confirmation of carer’s leave
If your application for carer’s leave is successful, you and your employer must sign a document confirming this arrangement, at least 2 weeks before you start carer’s leave. The document should state the start date, the duration of your carer’s leave and specify how your leave will be taken. You can find a sample confirmation document in Appendix B of the Carer's Leave Act explanatory booklet (pdf). Your employer keeps the signed document and gives you a copy of it.
This document is flexible, which means that your arrangement to take carer's leave can be amended. Even if you have already started carer’s leave, your carer’s leave (or part of it) may be postponed or varied as to how it is taken, provided that you and your employer agree. You should both amend and sign the confirmation of carer’s leave agreement. Again, your employer should keep the amended agreement and give you a copy of it.
6. Income while on carer’s leave
You are not paid while you are on carer’s leave. You may be eligible for Carer’s Benefit if you have enough PRSI contributions. If you do not qualify for Carer's Benefit you may qualify for Carer's Allowance, which is a means-tested payment.
You may do paid or voluntary work or attend a course while on carer’s leave for up to 18.5 hours a week, subject to a weekly income limit set by DSP.
7. Maintaining your PRSI contributions while on carer’s leave
If you are getting Carer's Benefit you will get credited social insurance contributions, known as credits. If you are on carer's leave but do not get Carer's Benefit, you are still entitled to get credits. You should get your employer to complete the application form for carer's leave credits (pdf).
8. Returning to work
Four weeks before the date you will return to work, you must give written notice to your employer that you intend to return to work. As regards your employment conditions, generally you are treated as if you had been in work during your period of carer’s leave except that you are not entitled to pay. You are entitled to annual leave and public holidays only for the first 13 weeks of carer’s leave.
You are protected against being victimised for taking carer's leave or for proposing to take it.
For information about Carer's Benefit, contact your local social welfare office or Intreo centre.