From 1 September 2020, Parents can take up to 26 weeks Parental Leave
One of the issues that has come to the fore as employees return to the Workplace after the pandemic, is the challenge of childcare. With many schools no longer providing before or after school care, many creches and childcare facilities are still unopened and many grandparents unable to help out, a lot of parents are left struggling with childcare and are turning to Unpaid Parental Leave as a way to take time off to take care of their children and keep their jobs. Here are some of the basics:
Parental Leave entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children. Under the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 the amount of parental leave that you can take has increased from 18 weeks to 26 weeks, for each eligible child, before their 12th birthday (16th Birthday for a child with a disability). This increase was phased in over a 2-year period.
From 1 September 2019, parents could take up to 22 weeks parental leave
From 1 September 2020, parents can take up to 26 weeks parental leave
If an employee has already taken some, or all of their previous entitlement of parental leave per child, they can still take the extra parental leave, (in blocks of at least 1 week), if their child is still eligible.
In general, an employee must have been working for their employer for at least a year to get the full amount of parental leave. However, if their child is very near the age threshold, and they have been working for their employer for more than 3 months but less than one year, they can take pro-rata parental leave.
An Employee can take parental leave on behalf of eligible children, if they are a relevant parent. The legislation defines a relevant parent as:
- A parent
- An adoptive parent
- (If adopted child is between the age of 10 and 12, an employee can take parental leave for them for up to 2 years after the date of the adoption order).
- A person acting in loco parentis (this means acting as a parent to the child)
An employee can take this leave as:
- One continuous period of leave or
- Separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks each
- If the employer consents, broken into working weeks and/or days
An employee must give written notice to their employer of their intention to take parental leave, at least 6 weeks before the leave is due to start and include the start date, the manner in which the leave will be taken (1 continuous period or separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks each) and the duration of the leave. The employer should give the employee a confirmation document to sign and return, at least 4 weeks before the leave is due to start. This is to confirm and have a signed record of the details of their parental leave which is a legal requirement.
If an employee has more than one child, parental leave is limited to 18 weeks in a 12-month period. This can be longer if the employer agrees. Parents of twins or triplets can take more than 18 weeks of parental leave in a year.
A part-time employee is entitled to parental leave on a reduced pro-rata basis. The entitlement to parental leave remains at 26 working weeks, for the length of the employees working week. This means if an employee works 50% of the normal work week, the parental leave granted will be 13 full working weeks. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between 2 periods of parental leave per child.
Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. If both work for the same employer and the employer agrees, one parent may transfer 14 weeks of their parental leave entitlement to the other parent.
If an employee becomes sick while on parental leave and is unable to care for their child, the leave can be suspended for the duration of the illness. The employee must give written notice and evidence of their illness to the employer as soon as is reasonably practicable. The parental leave resumes after the illness. During the illness the employee is treated as an employee who is sick.
Does taking parental leave affect an employee’s other employment rights?
There is no entitlement to pay or pension contributions from the employer while on parental leave. Apart from that, it’s as if no parental leave had been taken and an employee is regarded as still working for employment rights purposes. This means an employee accrues annual leave while on parental leave. If an employee’s annual holidays fall due during parental leave, they may be taken at a later time. An employee is also entitled to any public holidays that occur while on parental leave. This can be added to the end of the parental leave.
The employer can only refuse parental leave if an employee is not entitled to it. An employer can postpone parental leave for up to 6 months, based on objective grounds e.g. due to lack of cover or if other employees are on parental leave. This must be done before the confirmation document is signed. After that, there must be further written agreement.
Parental leave is to be used only to take care of the child concerned. If parental leave is taken and used for another purpose the employer is entitled to cancel the leave.
Parents have several different additional types of statutory leave entitlements, for example, maternity leave, adoptive leave, paternity leave and parents leave. Some are paid via social welfare and others are unpaid. Employers are required to keep record of the details of all statutory leaves.