An Overview of Parental Leave in Ireland

An Overview of Parental Leave in Ireland

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The Irish government provides parents with a modest amount of paid leave each year to care for their young children. This leave is called parental leave, and it can be taken by either parent. In general, parental leave is intended to allow parents to bond with their new baby and to give them time to adjust to their new responsibilities.

This article will provide an overview of parental leave in Ireland, including information on eligibility, how much time is provided, and who receives the benefit.

What is parental leave?

Under Irish law, parental leave allows parents to take unpaid time off from work to care for their young children. You may take up to 26 weeks of parental leave per child before they reach the age of 12.

These rules apply from 1 September 2020 (it used to be only 18, then 22 months, and only up to 8 years old). Employees who have already used their current entitlement of 18 weeks will be able to use additional 8 weeks, as long as their child is under the age of 12. 

In most cases, you must have worked for your employer for a year before you are eligible for parental leave.

Is it possible to extend 26 weeks?

Current legislation only specifies the bare minimum of parental leave entitlement. You may have more extensive parental leave rights depending on your employment contract. 

Children’s age limits 

Generally, you can take parental leave for a child until they turn 12 years old (leave must end when your child reaches the age of 13). 

This age limit can be extended under the following conditions: 

  • If you adopted the child between 10 and 12, you could take leave for up to two years after the adoption order.
  • You can take parental leave until your child is 16 years old if your child has a disability or a long-term illness.

An extension of parental leave may be given if you were unable to take the leave due to illness or another incapacity before your child reached the age limit. 

If you have more children

If you have more than one child, you cannot take more than 18 weeks in a year (the 12-month limit). But, if you have multiple births, such as twins or triplets, you can take 26 weeks of leave for each child. In this case, the 12-month limit does not apply. So, for example, in the case of twins, each parent would be entitled to 52 weeks of parental leave, and in the case of triplets, it would be 78 weeks, and so on. 

Part-time workers

In case you work part-time, your leave entitlement is reduced proportionally. This means if you work half a typical working week, you can take 13 full working weeks of parental leave. 

Do I get paid while on Parental Leave?

No. According to the law, your company is not required to compensate you for parental leave. While on parental leave, you are not eligible for salary or pension contributions or your employer’s social welfare funds. But, it’s worth checking your employment contract to find out whether you’re entitled to pay.

What about social insurance contributions?

While on parental leave, you can have your Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI contributions) credited. To be credited PRSI contributions for this time, your employer must notify the Department of Social Protection (DSP) – Client Eligibility Services section about the weeks you have not worked. Credited PRSI contributions will help to protect your social insurance record and future entitlement to benefits.

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Eligibility: Who can take Parental Leave?

To qualify for parental leave in Ireland, you must meet certain criteria.

You have to:

  • be a parent, an adoptive parent, or a person who acts ‘in loco parentis’ (this means someone who has a legal responsibility to take on some of the functions and duties of a parent)
  • take the leave before your child turns 12 years old (or 16 if your child has a disability or long-term illness) 
  • have worked for at least 12 months, before you can take parental leave (*)
  • give your employer at least 6 weeks’ notice

(*) If your child is approaching the upper age limit and you have more than three months but less than one year of service, you may be eligible for proportional parental leave. This is one week of leave for every month of continuous service with the employer before the leave begins.

Do I have to take all of my leave (the whole 26 weeks) at the same time?

No, but you are permitted to do so if you so desire. 

Parents can take parental leave in the following ways: 

  • in a single continuous 26-week period
  • in two separate blocks, but each block must last at least six weeks – there must be at least a 10-week gap between the two periods of leave per child
  • 1 day or more each week –  e.g., you can request one day of parental leave every week until the whole 26-week period is completed (*)
  • 1 hour or more each week (*)
  • a combination of days and hours (*)

(*) if your employer agrees

Can I carry over untaken parental leave if I change jobs? 

If you change your job and have already used part of your parental leave allowance, you can carry over any unused parental leave from one employer to the next (once your child is still under 12). For instance, if you used 12 weeks (out of 26) with a previous employer, you can use up to 14 weeks with their new employer, as long as you are eligible.

Can I share the leave with my spouse if we work for the same company?  

Both parents are entitled to 26 weeks of parental leave each. However, you can transfer 14 weeks (out of 26 weeks) of parental leave to the other parent if you both work for the same company and the employer agrees.

Employment rights during Parental Leave

Generally, during parental leave, you are regarded as being in employment. Therefore, all your employment rights are fully protected, except pay, pension contributions (superannuation), and social welfare payments.

Annual leave (paid time off) and public holidays 

While on parental leave, you can continue to accrue annual leave entitlements. You are also entitled to any public holidays during your parental leave period. 

If you become sick during parental leave

If you become sick during your parental leave and it’s not practicable for you to care for the child, your leave may be temporarily suspended. Promptly after becoming ill, you must give a doctor’s certificate to your employer and the written notice. The leave will be considered sick leave then. Your parental leave continues after the sick leave.

Tricky Issues With Parental Leave In Ireland

Can my employer refuse to let me go on parental leave?

No, your employer can’t refuse your request for parental leave if you meet all the criteria for eligibility. Check the section above Eligibility: Who can take Parental Leave?

Delaying leave (postponement of parental leave)

Parental leave can be postponed for up to 6 months by your employer. This could happen only if the employer has a significant reason – a big project’s starting, a seasonal peak period, or if other employees are already on leave. Also, this postponement can be done only before signing the confirmation document.

Parental leave is generally only allowed to be postponed once. However, in case of significant seasonal variations in the volume of work, it can be delayed twice.

Can my employer cancel my parental leave?

Parental leave can be terminated if an employer believes it is being used for another purpose and not caring for the child in question.

Is my job safe during Parental Leave?

Yes, after the expiry of the parental leave, you have a right to return to your old job under the same terms and conditions of the employment contract. If this is not possible, your employer has to offer you a proper alternative position within the company. This new job must have the same or better terms and conditions (for example, you must not earn less than before). You are also entitled to any pay raises or other benefits while on parental leave. 

Requesting flexible working after Parental Leave

You have a right to request changes to your working hours or patterns when you return to work after parental leave. To be taken into consideration are both the employer’s and your needs. The employer must consider and respond to your request within four weeks but is not required to grant the change requested.

How and when to apply for Parental Leave –  Giving notice

It would be best to give your employer notice in writing about your intention to take parental leave at least 6 weeks before the beginning of the break. (However, your employer has the option to refrain from insisting on all or part of this period.)

This notice should include:

  • the date you plan to begin the leave
  • the duration of the leave and end date
  • how you intend to take your leave (e.g., in a single continuous 26-week period or two separate blocks)

You can complete the parental leave application form online. 

Your employer may also ask for proof to confirm that you are the parent (or the person legally responsible for a child) and evidence of the child’s date of birth. This documentation can include a birth certificate, adoption or matching certificate, parental responsibility agreement, or court order.

Confirmation of Parental Leave

A parental leave “confirmation document” will require both you and your manager. This document demonstrates that you and your boss have agreed on parental leave dates and how you will take them. At least 4 weeks before the start of your parental leave, you must sign a confirmation document with your employer confirming the details of your leave.

In addition, it is the duty of employers to write to the Client Eligibility Services section of the Department of Social Protection (DSP), confirming the length, number of weeks, and precise parental leave dates.

Conclusion

It is vital that parents are aware of their entitlements when it comes to parental leave in Ireland. By ensuring that you are familiar with the law and your rights, you can ensure that you are able to take advantage of this important benefit. If you have any questions about parental leave, be sure to speak to a qualified solicitor who can advise you further.

Check out our leave management software to help you keep track of your staff’s leave entitlements and absences.

Disclaimer

All the information provided on this page is just general info on matters of parental leave. Every country has its own rules and regulations, and you should consult with appropriate professional advisors concerning parental leave before making any decision.

To learn more about labor laws in different countries, check out our Leave Laws page.