The Social Democrats, an Irish opposition party, have introduced a Bill to the Dáil Éireann which would extend unpaid parental leave to six months.

Under current rules, parents are entitled to 18 weeks unpaid leave, however, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 seeks to extend it to 26 weeks.

If passed, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill, 2017 would extend unpaid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks for all parents with children under 8 years. According to the European Commission, the average duration of parental leave among Member States is 86.9 weeks. This reform would bring Ireland closer to the European norm.

Under the current rules, the 18 weeks per child may be taken in one continuous period or in two separate blocks of a minimum of six weeks. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the two periods of parental leave.

However, if an employer agrees to do so, an employee can separate their parental leave into periods of days, or even hours. Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave.

A government spokesperson confirmed that the Bill will go unopposed, but added that there are a number of “reservations” about some aspects of the proposed legislation.

This Bill is currently before Dáil Éireann, First Stage.