Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006 & European Union (Parental Leave) Regulations 2013
Under the provisions of the 1998 and 2006 Acts, parents are entitled to unpaid leave for each child born or adopted. On 8 March 2013, the European Union (Parental Leave) Regulations 2013 increased the available amount of parental leave to each parent per child from 14 weeks to 18 weeks and extended the time limit for a child with a long-term illness to 16 years.
- Generally, employees must have rendered continuous service for 12 months to avail themselves of the full 18 weeks’ parental leave. However, if the child is almost close to the age threshold and the parent has been working for his/her employer for over 3 months but less than 1 year, then they will be entitled to parental leave on a pro-rata basis.
- The leave must be taken before the child reaches the age of 8 (16 years in the case of children with disabilities or in the case of an adopted child under eight, within two years of the Adoption Order).
- Unless both parents are employed by the same employer and the employer has agreed to the transfer, the leave may not be transferred between the parents. In this case, the maximum number of weeks to be transferred between the parents is 14.
- The leave may be taken as one block or, in separate blocks of a minimum of 6 continuous weeks, or more favourable terms after coming to an agreement with the employer, and there must be a gap of at least ten weeks between the 2 parental leave periods.
- The leave extends to persons acting in loco parentis in respect of an eligible child.
- An employee who falls ill while on parental leave and is unable to care the child as a result of this may suspend the parental leave for the duration of the illness following which period the parental leave recommences. During the illness, the parent is treated as an employee who is sick.
- The leave must be used to take care of the child.
A 6-week advanced notification must be given to the employer in writing, and confirmation must be received. This notice should state the starting and end date of the leave.
On certain stated business grounds, an employer may postpone the leave for up to six months. After that, only with further written agreement the leave can be postponed again. Grounds for such a postponement may include lack of cover or that other employees are already on parental leave. Usually, only one postponement is allowed, but it may be postponed a second time if the reason is seasonal variations in the work volume.
If an employee changes job and has utilised only a certain percentage of his/her parental leave allowance, then the remainder may be used after 1 year’s employment with the new employer as long as the child is still under the qualified age.
During parental leave all employment rights are protected other than remuneration and superannuation benefits. At the end of the parental leave, employees are also entitled to return to the same job or a suitable alternative employment.
Some changes have been made to this act, for instance, since 8th March 2013, when after taking parental leave an employee returns to work, he/she has the right to request for a change in their work pattern or in their working hours for a certain period of time. An employer must consider the employees request but is not obliged to grant it.
Force Majeure Leave
This refers to paid leave that arises when illness or injury of a close relative (as specified in the 1998 and 2006 Acts) makes the immediate presence of the employee indispensable.
The force majeure provisions now extend to persons in a relationship of domestic dependency, this also includes same-sex partners.
Maximum allowance is three days in one year or five days over three consecutive years. Part of a day is counted as a full day.
During force majeure leave, all employment rights are protected, and the employee has a right to return to the same job or a suitable alternative.
Procedures and Enforcement
Any dispute (within six months from the occurrence of the dispute) under the 1998 & 2006 Acts (other than a dismissal – claim under Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2007) can be brought to a Rights Commissioner who can award up to twenty weeks remuneration or may give “such directions” as the Rights Commissioner “considers necessary or expedient for the resolution of the dispute”.