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 make the following important changes to parental leave rights in Ireland:
- Leave entitlement increased to 18 weeks
The Parental Leave Acts provide parents, adoptive parents and guardians, who have the required continuous service with their employer (in most cases one year), with a right to take unpaid leave to care for their children. The leave may be taken as a continuous block, or, if the employer agrees, broken up over a period of time. The new Regulations increase the parental leave entitlement from 14 to 18 working weeks.
- 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. For example, where a child has a disability, parental leave can be taken until that 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 limited to 14 weeks
Each parent has a separate entitlement to parental leave in respect of a child and there is no general right to transfer parental leave from one parent to another. However, 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 any part of his or her parental leave to the other parent. However, the new Regulations make it clear that the right to transfer parental leave is limited to 14 of the 18 working weeks.
- Right to request change to working hours / patterns
The new Regulations provide a statutory entitlement for employees returning from parental leave to request a change in their working hours / 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 and the date of commencement, and duration of, the changed working arrangements. The new Regulations do not impose any limit on the duration of such changes.