Under the recently announced Parental Leave Scheme, Irish employees will enjoy increased parental leave from November 2019.
The current position
The current position is that employees are entitled to avail of up to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave until a child is 8, or 16 years old if the child has a long-term illness. However this is set to change as the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 seeks to extend this unpaid entitlement from 18 weeks to 26 weeks and extend the qualifying age of the child from 8 to 12. The Bill is currently before the Upper House of the Irish Legislature.
Separate to existing parental leave, the Scheme gives effect to the announcement in last year’s budget that new parents will be able to avail of two weeks’ paid parental leave during the first 12 months of their baby’s life. The change is to take effect from November 2019. The Department of Social Protection will pay the parental benefit at the same rate as maternity and paternity benefit which is currently €245 per week. Individual employers can decide if they want to “top up” the payment to salary level.
The benefit is a non-transferable ‘use it or lose it’ right, incentivising fathers to avail of this statutory benefit during the first 12 months of their baby’s life. The Government plans to incrementally increase the benefit up to seven weeks by 2021.
Government approval has been secured for the priority drafting of the necessary legislation to introduce the leave entitlement.
Separately, the European Parliament and the Council recently reached agreement on the proposal for a new Directive on work-life balance for parents. The Directive contains proposals with regards to paternity, parental and carers' leave. This provisional agreement still needs to be approved by member states however some of the main proposals include:
- The right for parents to request flexible working arrangements, such as reduced or flexible working hours, and
- The right to four months of parental leave, two of which are paid and non-transferable between the parents.
This will further strengthen family based entitlements for employees in Ireland.
There is a clear trend towards a more family-friendly working culture.
Employers should be aware of the changes which are coming down the track. Parental leave policies and employee contract templates should be reviewed.