Parental leave provides parents with the option to avail of 26 weeks unpaid leave to look after their child or children. Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. Unless you and your partner work for the same employer, you can only claim your own parental leave entitlement. If you both work for the same employer and your employer agrees you may transfer 14 weeks of your parental leave entitlement to each other.
If the parent becomes ill while on parental leave and is unable to care for the child the leave can be suspended for the duration of the illness.
Parental Leave is governed by the Parental Leave Act 2013. For parents to qualify for parental leave they must have one years’ service within the Organisation. Also, they must have a child/adoptive of the following ages:
- Under 12 years of age
- An adoptive child between the ages of 10 and 12 – leave can be taken up to 2 years after the adoption order
- A child with a disability or long-term illness until they’re 16 years of age.
Duration of Parental Leave
Parental Leave is an unpaid benefit and is allowed for a period of 26 weeks for each eligible child. In the case of multiple births, such as twins, parents are entitled to the full 26 weeks for each child.
It can be taken in the following manner:
- One continuous block of 26 weeks;
- Two separate blocks of at least 6 weeks in each block, with a gap of at least 10 weeks between the two blocks; or
- Or a number of days or hours per week (or a combination of both) that equates to the 26 weeks, where the employer agrees
Applying for Parental Leave
You must give written notice to your employer of your intention to take parental leave. You should inform your employer in writing 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. After this, but not 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.
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Employment rights while on parental leave
You are not entitled to pay from your employer while you are on parental leave nor are you entitled to any social welfare payment equivalent to Maternity Benefit or Adoptive Benefit. However, taking parental leave does not affect other employment rights you have. Apart from the loss of pay and pension contributions, your position remains as if no parental leave had been taken. This means, for example, that time spent on parental leave can be used to accumulate your annual leave entitlement.
If your annual holidays fall during parental leave, they may be taken at a later time. You are entitled to any public holidays that occurs while you are on parental leave. Your public holiday entitlement can be added to the end of your parental leave.
Organisations should also ensure all documentation relating to parental leave is kept on file for a period of 8 years. Once an organisation approves leave, they must produce a document containing details of the leave arrangement. The document must be signed by both employer and employee to ensure it is binding. Organisations should further note where they identify this type of leave being abused i.e. that this leave is not being used for the purpose of looking after a child. It can be a disciplinary offense. Of course, this can be extremely difficult to determine.
Returning to Work
Once an employee returns to work the organisation is required to provide them with the same terms and conditions of employment or no less favourable. In some cases employees may request a change in working pattern to suit their child minding arrangements, the organisation is required to respond to the employees request within 4 weeks.
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