Understanding Parental Leave

In today’s working world, your employees may find it hard to manage their work commitments and daily family life, as establishing the boundaries between employment and childcare continues to be a challenging task. Many businesses recognise this and work with their employees to be as flexible as possible in the circumstances. However, many remain in the dark when it comes to government measures to guarantee there is statutory leave for parents when their children are young, which also assures full job protection. The Parental Leave Act enables parents to take parental leave from employment. To fully understand this, we have listed the critical areas around parental leave that you can share with your organisation.

What is parental leave?

The Parental Leave Act enables parents to take parental leave from work in respect of certain children. A person acting in loco parentis concerning an eligible child is also qualified for the leave. Though this scheme is unpaid, it was announced in Budget 2019 that a new Parental Benefit Scheme would be introduced from November 2019. The scheme will be paid at the same rate as the current Maternity Benefit and Paternity Benefit though Government legislation will be required before the scheme comes into effect.

Leave must be taken in respect of a child no later than their 8th birthday. If a child was adopted within the age of six and eight, leave for that child may be taken up to 2 years afterwards. In the position of a child with a disability or a long-term illness, parental can be taken up to their 16th birthday.

Amount of parental leave

The amount of parental leave possible for each child amounts to a total of 18 working weeks per child. Where a worker has more than one child, parental leave is limited to 18 weeks in 12 months. However, this can be longer if the employer agrees. Parents of twins or triplets are permitted to take more than 18 weeks of parental leave in a year. The 18 weeks may be taken in one consecutive period or two separate blocks of a minimum of six weeks. There must be a break of ten weeks minimum between the two periods of parental leave per child. However, if your employer agrees to, leave can be separated into periods of days or hours. Both parents have an individual entitlement to parental leave.

Employment rights while on parental leave

Employees are not entitled to pay from employers while on parental leave and are not allowed to claim any social welfare payment equivalent to Maternity Benefit or Adoptive Benefit. Taking parental leave does not affect other employment rights they have. Aside from the loss of salary and pension contributions, their position remains as if no parental leave had been taken. This means, for example, that time spent on parental leave can be used to accrue annual leave entitlement.

Social insurance contributions

Revenue have introduced regulations to ensure that PRSI records for employees who take parental leave are preserved during this time. The onus is on the employer to write to the Records Update Section of Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), detailing the weeks not worked, so that employees can get credited PRSI contributions for this time.

Annual leave and public holidays

While on parental leave, employees must be regarded for employment rights purposes as still working. This means that they can build up annual leave while on parental leave. If their yearly holidays fall due during parental leave, it may be taken later. They are entitled to any public holidays that occur while they are on parental leave. Their public holiday entitlement can be added to the end of their parental leave.

Notification of Parental Leave

An employee must give written notice to their employer that they would like to apply for parental leave, no later than six weeks before they plan to take the leave.

The notice of leave must include:

• the date intended to begin the leave;

• the length of time that the employee plans to be on parental leave;

• how the employee proposes to take the leave;

• the employee’s signature

However, the Acts also provides that an employer may, at his or her discretion, waive all or part of the notification period. Likewise, the employer may require the employee to give proof that they are entitled to leave e.g. the child’s DOB, date of the adoption order and if relevant, the disability of the child. If your employees have any further questions regarding parental leave that has not been covered, encourage them to contacts the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for more in