A new Statutory Instrument was signed into Law on 8th March 2013 which gives effect to the EU Directive on Parental Leave which was to be implemented into Irish law by that date.

The introduction of the Parental Leave Directive will make a huge difference to our existing law on Parental Leave and the principle changes are as follows:

Currently in Ireland maternity leave is paid for 26 weeks with an additional 16 weeks unpaid also being available. In addition to this, 14 weeks’ unpaid parental leave is available for both mothers and fathers up until the child is aged 8 years. With the introduction of the Directive into Irish law, unpaid parental leave will be extended from 14 to 18 weeks for each parent.

Parents can avail of the leave for each child under eight, but are limited to 18 weeks per year if they have more than one child (except in the case of twins or triplets).

Furthermore, the new Regulations provide that an employee returning to work from parental leave “may request changes to their work hours and/or patterns for a set period of time.” While employers are not required to grant these changes under the new regulations they must consider them.

It should be noted that while both parents have equal rights to the leave, this cannot be transferred between them, unless they work for the same employer.