Employees in Ireland are entitled to avail of Parental Leave when they become a parent. This Leave is for the sole purpose of taking care of the child in respect of whom the Leave is being taken. This Leave is different to Maternity/Paternity Leave.
The employer has the right to cancel the Leave if he or she discovers that the Leave is being used for another purpose.
Parental Leave applies to all employees who have completed 12 months’ continuous service.
However, if a child is approaching the age threshold (described below) and the employee has accrued at least 3 months’ service then he or she will be entitled to the Leave on a pro-rata basis.
Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to Parental Leave and are encouraged to avail of their own entitlement. Where both parents work for the same employer, the employer may agree to transfer one parent’s Leave to the other parent. The employer is in no way obliged to agree to this.
The allowance increased from 14 to 18 weeks per child in March 2013. If an employee has more than one child, except in cases of multiple births (twins etc.), Parental Leave is limited to 18 weeks in any 12 month period. If the employer agrees, however, more weeks per year can be allowed.
The 18 weeks per child may be taken in one continuous period or in separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks at a time. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between two periods of Parental Leave per child. If the employer agrees, the employee can take Leave in a different pattern. This, for instance, could consist of single days at a time or even hours. This can often work out better for the business, however, it can be complicated to keep track of.
Separating the Parental Leave entitlements in to shorter periods of days/hours can be agreed on an individual basis – this is at the discretion of the employer and is based on the operational needs of the business – there is absolutely no obligation on the employer to agree to shorter periods.
Many employees take one day per week for the duration of their Leave – In this instance, if the employee normally works a 5 day week, the employee would be entitled to work 4 days per week for 90 weeks.
The employer must maintain detailed records of all Parental Leave as it is used. Employers must keep these details for 8 years.
The Leave must be taken before the child reaches 8 years of age. Exceptions apply in the case of children who are adopted between the ages of 6 and 8 – Leave in this instance may be taken up to 2 years after the date of the adoption order. Similarly, exceptions to the age threshold are made where a child has a disability – Leave may be taken in respect of children with disabilities up to the age of 16. Where illness or other incapacity prevented the employee taking the Leave within the normal period exceptional allowances may be made.
Parental Leave applicants must write to their Manager requesting the Leave 6 weeks before the expected commencement date.
Where Parental Leave is approved by the employer a Parental Leave Agreement should be drawn up.
Parental Leave remains as being unpaid Leave from employment. However, employers should be aware that employees retain their right to accumulate Annual Leave while on Parental Leave and also employees retain their entitlements for Public Holidays while on Parental Leave. There will be a loss of pension contributions, where relevant. The employee’s PRSI contributions will be protected during Parental Leave. The employee will then get credited PRSI contributions for this time.
An employer may postpone a Parental Leave application for up to 6 months (this must be done before the confirmation document is signed). If the Leave would have a substantial, adverse effect on the operation of the business the employer would have grounds to postpone the requested Leave. Postponement due to a lack of cover/due to the fact that other employees are already on Parental Leave would be justified. Normally, only one postponement is allowed.
The employee is entitled to return to their job after Parental Leave, unless it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to allow them to return to their old job. In this case, the employee must be offered a suitable alternative on terms no less favourable than the previous job, including any improvement in pay or other conditions, which occurred while the employee was on Parental Leave.