On 1 April 2021, most of the provisions of the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021 (the 2021 Act) came into operation. The 2021 Act entitles working parents to an additional three weeks parent's leave for each parent and rectifies an anomaly in the law which previously left same-sex couples unable to avail of adoptive leave. We have set out below the main changes effective from April 2021.
Parent's Leave and Benefit
The concept of parent's leave was first introduced by the Parent's Leave and Benefit Act 2019 (the 2019 Act) which entitled the "relevant parent" of a child to a two-week period of non-transferable leave to be taken within the first year of the child's life or placement with their adoptive family. Parent's leave is separate and distinct from parental leave or other types of family leave. The 2021 Act extends parent's leave by three weeks (i.e. to a total of five weeks) and increases the period within which such leave can be taken to two years from the child's birth or adoption. This leave can either be taken together or as separate weeks and is to be paid (Parent's Benefit) by the State at the standard benefit rate of €245 per week (subject to eligibility). There is no obligation on employer's to "top-up" the parent's leave benefit.
These new provisions apply retrospectively so that parents who have already taken two weeks' parent's leave following the 2019 Act but prior to the enactment of the 2021 Act also have an entitlement to benefit from the additional three weeks leave.
The 2021 Act brings Ireland closer to the provisions of the EU's Work Life Balance Directive (the Directive) which requires all Member States to implement two months paid, non-transferable parent's leave by August 2022. Therefore, it is expected that parent's leave will be extended again to bring Ireland in line with the requirements of the Directive.
For more information on parent's leave and parental leave please see our previous article on this topic in this link.
Prior to the 2021 Act, adoptive leave was only available to either an employed adoptive mother or a single adopting father. Consequently, same sex couples were unable to avail of this type of leave. The 2021 Act allows adoptive couples to choose which parent may avail of adoptive leave, enabling same sex couples to avail of adoptive leave and removing the assumption that the woman is the primary caregiver in the family. This welcome step represents a further effort to provide for gender equality in the workplace.