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Are you entitled to Parental Leave?

What is it and who can take it?

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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What is Parental Leave?

Under Irish law, fathers and mothers are allowed to take unpaid leave from their job to look after young children. This is called parental leave and the terms and conditions for it are set out in the Parental Leave Act, 1998, which was updated through the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006.

Someone who acts ‘in loco parentis’ (that means they take the role that would usually be fulfilled by a mother or father) with respect to an eligible child is also eligible.

How old does my child have to be for me to qualify for parental leave?

  • You qualify for parental leave if your child is 8 years of age or under
  • If you adopted your child between the ages of 6 and 8 you can take the leave that you were entitled to up to 2 years after the date of the adoption order
  • If your child has a disability or long-term illness then you may take parental leave right up until they’re 16 years of age

Is there a limit to how much leave I can take?

Yes, since March 8th 2013 you are entitled to take 18 working weeks of leave per child.

  • If you have more than one child, you can only take 18 weeks total in a 12-month period
  • 18 weeks is generally the limit but if the employer agrees, it can be extended
  • If you have twins or triplets you are allowed to take more than 18 weeks of parental leave in a year

Do I have to take all 18 weeks together?

No, but you’re allowed do that if you want to. You can also take it in 2 separate blocks, but you have to take at least 6 weeks in each block. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the 2 periods of parental leave per child.

However, if your employer agrees you can separate your leave into periods of days or even hours.

Is my partner entitled to the same amount of leave as me?

  • Yes, both parents are entitled to their own 18 weeks of parental leave
  • If you both work for the same employer you can transfer 14 weeks of your leave entitlement to each other, but only if the employer agrees

What happens if I get sick while I’m on parental leave?

Parents who fall ill while on parental leave are allowed to suspend the leave for the duration of their illness, but only if that illness leaves them unable to care for the child.

They’ll have to provide their employer with written notice and relevant evidence of the illness to their employer as soon as is reasonably possible in order for the leave to be suspended.

How does taking parental leave affect my rights as an employee?

Well, first things first, you’re not entitled to pay from your employer and you’re not entitled to any special social welfare payment for it. It’s not like Maternity Benefit or Adoptive Benefit. Taking parental leave doesn’t affect any of the other employment rights you have though. You’ll lose pay and pension contributions, yes, but otherwise there’s no big difference in terms of your position in work.

  • Check your contract to find out what it says about your rights as the legislation only sets out what your minimum entitlement is in terms of how many weeks you can take
  • Don’t worry about your PRSI because the Minister for Social Protection has introduced Regulations to ensure preservation of social insurance (PRSI) records for employees who take parental leave
  • Your employer must write to the Records Update Section of Department of Social Protection (DSP), detailing the weeks you have not worked, so that you can get credited PRSI contributions for this time
  • The legislation also protects parents who take parental leave from unfair dismissal

Returning to work

  • You are entitled to return to your job after your parental leave unless it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to allow you to return to your old job
  • If it is not practicable to return to your old job, you must be offered a suitable alternative on terms no less favourable compared with the previous job, including any improvement in pay or other conditions which occurred while you were on parental leave
  • The legislation also protects parents who take parental leave from unfair dismissal
  • Since 8 March 2013, when you return to work after taking parental leave, you are entitled to ask for a change in your work pattern or working hours for a set period. Your employer must consider your request but is not obliged to grant it

What about my annual leave? And Bank Holidays?

You’re technically considered to still be working while you’re on parental leave so your annual leave shouldn’t be affected. You can still build up annual leave and if your annual holidays fall during the parental leave then you can take them at a later time.

A public holiday that falls while you are on parental leave and on a day when you would normally be working is added to your period of leave.

What happens if I switch jobs? Do I get a new entitlement?

If you change job and have used part of your parental leave allowance you can use the remainder after one year's employment with your new employer, provided your child is still under the qualifying age.

How do I apply for parental leave?

  • If you want to apply you must give written notice to your employer at least 6 weeks before the leave is due to start
  • The notice should state the starting date and how long the leave will last
  • Then, no less than 4 weeks before the leave is due to start, you will need to sign a document with your employer confirming the details of the leave; this is the confirmation document

Can my employer say no?

Well, that depends. Generally, you must have been working for your employer for a year before you are entitled to those 18 weeks of parental leave.

  • If you’ve been working for your employer for anywhere between three months and a year you may still qualify for pro-rata parental leave if your child is very near the age threshold
  • Pro-rata parental leave is one week's leave for every month of employment completed
  • An employer may also postpone the leave for up to 6 months, but this must be done before the confirmation document is signed
  • After six months, the leave cannot be postponed without further written agreement; grounds for such a postponement include lack of cover or the fact that other employees are already on parental leave
  • Normally only one postponement is allowed, but it may be postponed twice if the reason is seasonal variations in the volume of work
  • Parental leave is to be used only to take care of the child concerned. If the parental leave is taken and used for another purpose the employer is entitled to cancel the leave
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Published Novem­ber 17th2014
Tags children childcare young parent
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