Parental leave is governed by the Parental Leave Acts 1998 to 2019.
This legislation is designed to afford parents time away from work to look after their children or make arrangements for their children’s welfare.
On 1st September 2020 unpaid parental leave entitlement in Ireland was increased from 22 weeks to 26 weeks in respect to each eligible child.
Eligible Parents* will now be able to take 26 weeks’ parental leave for each child. Parental leave must be taken before the child reaches twelve years of age. In relation to adopted children under twelve, parental leave may be taken within two years of the date of the adoption order. In cases of a child with a disability, parental leave maybe taken up to 16 years of age or until the disability ceases (whichever is the earlier).
Parents who have taken their 22 weeks’ parental leave entitlement will now be able to benefit from the increase of four weeks’ entitlement provided their children still fall under the categories outlined above.
This extended period of parental leave came about from the European wide initiative to modernise the existing EU legal framework in relation to work-life balance arrangements. The aim is to provide more flexibility to working parents and to encourage and enable parents to better manage their work and family lives.
Entitlement to Parental Leave
An employee must have at least 12 months’ continuous service with an employer to be entitled to parental leave. If an employee has more than 3 months but less than 12 months’ continuous service, they may be entitled to the parental leave entitlement on a pro-rata basis, provided the child is nearing the age limit of the categories outlined above. In these circumstances the employee may take parental leave for a period of one week for each month of continuous service.
In order for an employee to qualify for parental leave they must provide a minimum of 6 weeks’ notice of their intention to take parental leave. It is important to note that there must be a space of at least 10 weeks between periods of parental leave. Employees must include in their notice to their employer the following information:
- Commencement date of leave;
- Duration of leave; and
- The manner in which leave is to be taken.
After the employer has been furnished with the notice, a confirmation document must be drawn up specifying all relevant information. The confirmation document must be signed by both parties at least four weeks before the commencement of the leave
Employers Refusal and Postponement
Generally, an employer cannot refuse parental leave entitlements unless the particular employee is not entitled to it.
Employers have a right to refuse granting parental leave and postpone it for a maximum period of 6 months if the leave would have a substantial and adverse impact on the operation of the employer’s business. Reasons include if there is a lack of cover, if another employee is on parental leave at the same time, seasonal variations in the volume of work concerned or if the employer reasonably believes the leave is not being used to look after children’s welfare
Employers should make sure that their organisation’s policies and procedures are updated to take into account the increased period of parental leave from 1 September 2020 onwards.
*Eligible Parents means a person who is the parent, adoptive parent or acting in loco parentis to the child.
For more information on parental leave, or for any other employment queries please contact Emer Murphy, Solicitor on the Employment Team at [email protected] or 01 644 5800 or Marc Fitzgibbon, Head of Employment at [email protected] or 01 644 5800.