The EU (Parental Leave) Regulations 2013 (S.I. 81 of 2013) came into operation on 8 March 2013, amending the Parental Leave Acts 1998 to 2006. The Regulations made the following key changes to parental leave rights in Ireland:
Parental Leave entitlement increased to 18 weeks
The Parental Leave Acts provide parents, adoptive parents and persons in loco parentis, who have the required continuous service with their employer with the right to take unpaid leave to care for their children. The leave may be taken as a continuous block, or, if the employer agrees, it may taken over a period of time. The new Regulations increase the parental leave entitlement from 14 to 18 working weeks.
Leave for child suffering from long-term illness
Normally, parental leave must be taken before the child reaches 8 years of age, but leave can be taken to care for older children in certain limited circumstances, such as when a child has a disability. In such cases parental leave can be taken up until the child reaches 16 years, or the disability ceases, whichever first occurs. The new Regulations now extend the scope of this provision to allow for leave to be taken in respect of a child with a long-term illness until that child reaches 16 years, or the illness ceases, whichever first occurs.
Transfer of parental leave between parents limited to 14 weeks
Each parent has a separate entitlement to parental leave in respect of each child and there is no general right to transfer parental leave from one parent to another. However, in cases where both parents are employed by the same employer, either parent is entitled, subject to the consent of the employer concerned, to transfer all or part of their parental leave to the other parent. However, the new Regulations specify that the right to transfer parental leave is limited to 14 of the 18 working weeks.
Right to request change to working hours or patterns
The new Regulations also provide a statutory entitlement for employees returning from parental leave to request a change in their working hours or patterns for a set period of time. The request must be made not later than 6 weeks before the commencement of the proposed set period. The employer must consider, but is not required to grant, the request. When considering the request, the employer must have regard to the needs of the employer and the employee. The employer must then, within 4 weeks of receipt of the request, either (a) inform the employee in writing that the request has been refused, or (b) if the request is accepted, arrange for the employer and employee to sign an agreement confirming the proposed changes with the date of commencement, and duration of the changed working arrangements set out.
Other Important Aspects
Other noteworthy factors in addition to those above and those set out in the updated handbook section are as follows:
Social insurance contributions
- The Minister for Social Protection has previously introduced Regulations to ensure preservation of social insurance (PRSI) records for employees who take parental leave. The employer must write to the Records Update Section of Department of Social Protection, detailing the weeks not worked, so that the employee can get credited PRSI contributions for this time. Information about credited contributions and parental leave is contained on the Department’s website www.welfare.ie
Annual leave and public holidays
- While on parental leave, an employee must be regarded for employment rights purposes as still working. This means that annual leave is accrued while on parental leave. If annual holidays fall due during parental leave, they may be taken at a later time. A public holiday that falls while an employee is on parental leave and on a day which they would normally be working is added to their entitlement.
Amount of parental leave
- Where 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 company agrees and parents of twins or triplets can take more than 18 weeks of parental leave in a year.
- The 18 weeks per child may be taken in one continuous period or in 2 separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the 2 periods of parental leave per child. However, if the employer agrees the leave can be separated into periods of days or even hours.
- Generally an employee must have been working for the employer for a year before being entitled to parental leave. However if a child is very near the age threshold and an employee has been working for an employer for more than three months but less than one year they are entitled to pro-rata parental leave i.e. one week's leave for every month of employment completed.
- If an employee changes job and has already used part of their parental leave allowance they can use the remainder after one year's employment with the new employer provided the child is still under the qualifying age.
- Apart from a refusal on the grounds on non-entitlement, an employer may also postpone the leave for up to 6 months. This must be done before the confirmation document is signed. If the confirmation document is already signed, the leave cannot be postponed without further written agreement. Grounds for such a postponement may 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 company is entitled to cancel the leave.
- Employers must keep records of all parental leave taken by their employees. These records must include the period of employment of each employee and the dates and times of the leave taken. Employers must keep these records for 8 years. If an employer fails to keep records they may be liable to a fine of up to €2000.
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