Parental Leave in Ireland – What You Need to Know

Work-life balance is becoming increasingly important to Irish employees but most particularly to working parents. The birth of a baby is a hugely pivotal time in life and most parents will want to avail of as much time off work as possible, to spend with their precious new arrival.

In response to this need, the Government introduced statutory leave for parents of young children which provides employees with full job protection while they focus on caring for their child. This parental leave is separate to maternity & paternity leave.

It is important that new parents are informed about paternal leave in advance, so that they can decide on the best way to utilise it for their family’s needs. For example if a parent decides to take parental leave directly after their maternity leave, then they will want to postpone their child’s start date at crèche until after this period. Likewise if they decide that they want to keep their parental leave for a later stage, then they will need to have childcare in place for when their maternity leave ends.

The following are some of the most common questions that new parents have in relation to parental leave in Ireland.

 

Is everyone in Ireland entitled to parental leave?

 
Under the Parental Leave Act 1998 (amended by the Parental Leave Amendment Act 2006) parents in Ireland are entitled to take parental leave from their employment to care for their children, provided that they have been in continuous employment with their current employer for more than one year. Adoptive parents and those acting in loco parentis to an eligible child are also eligible to avail of parental leave.

The rules clearly state that parental leave is to be used only for taking care of the respective child and not for any other purpose. In a case that the time off is being used for any other reason, then an employer has the right to cancel the leave.

 

How long is parental leave in Ireland?

 
Parents who have been in continuous employment for more than one year are entitled to 18 working weeks of unpaid parental leave per child. Parents who have been employed for less than one year will be entitled to pro rata parental leave.

An employee who has more than one child is limited to taking 18 weeks parental leave in a 12 month period but parents of twins or triplets can take more than the standard 18 weeks in a given year.

 

Does parental leave have to be taken altogether?

 
The 18 weeks leave per child can be taken in one continuous block or they can be taken in two separate periods – however the minimum for a period is 6 weeks. There must also be a gap of at least ten weeks between the two periods.

Another option (if an employer is in agreement) is to separate parental leave into periods of days or even hours across a much longer period. For example a parent may choose to take one day of paternal leave a week for a set period to create a four day working week. This gives parents the opportunity to create a more flexible working arrangement that is conducive to family life.

As of March 2013, parents can request using their parental leave in this way but an employer is not obliged to grant this request. Employees must submit their request in writing six weeks in advance and an employer is obliged to respond within four weeks of receiving it.

 

Do you get paid for parental leave in Ireland?

 
Ireland is one of only six EU countries where employers are not obliged by law to pay employees on parental leave. Currently parents are entitled to eighteen weeks of unpaid parental leave and are not eligible for any social welfare payments. Despite not being paid during the parental leave period, employees will receive credited PRSI contributions for this period, provided that their employer notifies the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

In 2018 the Government announced plans to introduce two weeks of extra paid paternal leave but this is not due to come into effect until late 2019. See more information on this new parental benefit scheme below.

 

What is the age limit for parental leave in Ireland?

 
Parental leave can be taken in respect of a child up until their 8th birthday. However there are exceptions for children who have been adopted between the age of 6 and 8 and for children with a long term illness or disability.

In addition to this extensions may also be granted to parents who were prevented from taking their parental leave in the normal eight year period, due to illness or other extenuating factors. For more information see www.citizensinformation.ie.

 

Can parents transfer paternal leave to each other?

 
In Ireland both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave but this cannot be transferred between them. The exception to this is where both parents work for the same employer. For parents who are both employed by the same company, 14 of their weeks may be transferred to the other parent, with their employer’s agreement.

 

Will parental leave affect my pension?

 
While on unpaid paternal leave, employees are not entitled to continue to accrue pension benefits. However, your service before and after your parental leave must be treated as continuous. In other words members of a pension scheme cannot be treated as having left the scheme following a period of parental leave.

 

Does parental leave affect other employment rights?

 
Besides the loss or earnings and pension contributions, parental leave has no other effects on your employment rights or benefits. While on parental leave, you are still entitled to the same rights and benefits that you would receive if you were working. For example you can still build up your annual leave while on parental leave and you are also entitled to any public holidays that fall during this period. These accumulated annual leave and public holiday days can be added to your paternal leave or can be taken when you return to work.

 

What changes were made to paternal leave in Budget 2018?

 
In 2018 the Government announced that they would be providing two extra weeks paid parental leave for each parent while the child is under one year. This measure (called the paternal benefit scheme) will come into effect from November 2019 and it will be paid at the same rate as maternity and paternity leave. Parents will be entitled to take the new paid leave at any point during the child’s first year and can also take this leave together at the same time.

 

How do I apply for parental leave?

 
To apply for paternal leave in Ireland you must provide written notice to your employer outlining your intention to take parental leave and this should be done six weeks prior to the date that you wish to start.You will also be required to sign a document with your employer four weeks before you begin your leave.

 

For more information contact:

The Workplace Relations Commission – Information and Customer Service
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
Homepage: https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/