Contact: LeAnne Stefl
Effective 1 September 2020, the maximum number of weeks of unpaid parental leave is extended from 22 weeks to 26 weeks. As in the past, employment rights must be preserved; these include accrual of vacation leave, preservation of seniority rights, and the reinstatement of the leave-taker in his or her former job position.
Affected employers and employees
All employers are required to comply with the new legislation, provided that the employee has followed the proper procedure for requesting unpaid parental leave. Employees usually must have worked for an employer for at least 12 months in order to be entitled to take unpaid parental leave time.
Entitlement: duration of unpaid leave
Previously, employees were entitled to take up to 22 weeks of unpaid parental leave. This was increased to 26 weeks of unpaid leave for each eligible child (age 12 or younger), effective from 1 September 2020.
Each parent has his or her own account of parental leave, and each parent has a separate entitlement—assuming, of course, that the parent satisfies the applicable eligibility conditions, including a service requirement of at least 1 year. The leave can be taken in a single block of time, or allocated between 2 blocks that are separated by a period of at least 10 weeks. Normally, the minimum amount of time in a block must be at least 6 weeks.
Flexibility of parental leave
The parental leave law and regulations allow for considerable flexibility in working out the terms of the employee’s leave to the relative satisfaction of both parties. For example, the starting date of an employee’s leave can be delayed for up to 6 months if a temporary replacement for an employee is unavailable.
Next Steps To Consider
Effective 1 September 2020, the maximum number of weeks of unpaid parental leave is extended from 22 weeks to 26 weeks for each eligible child (age 12 or younger).
As in the past, employment rights must be preserved; these include accrual of vacation leave, preservation of seniority rights, and the reinstatement of the leave-taker in his or her former job position.
Employers must ensure that their policies and relevant communication materials are aligned with the new parental leave entitlements.
The changes in the unpaid parental leave legislation are set out in the Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020, which amends the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006. The basic legislation establishing the unpaid parental leave measures was enacted in order for Irish legislation to be in accord with the law of the European Union—namely, Council Directive 96/34/EC of 3 June 1996. The Irish law took effect from 3 December 1998. Previously, it provided for a maximum of 14 weeks of unpaid parental leave per year until the child reached age 5.