Almost one year ago, the Irish Government launched its "First Five" strategy, a cross government initiative to support babies, young children and families including a commitment to increase paid parental leave in the first year of a child's life, to encourage the participation of women in the workforce and making it easier for men to share child care responsibilities. Last month the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act, 2019 introduced increased unpaid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks and paved the way for up to 26 weeks parental leave by 2020. This week, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection published the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill, 2019 (the "Bill").
- The Bill provides for up to 2 weeks' paid parental leave for both parents. It is expected to come into force next month. The paid parental leave must be taken in a two week block or in two one week blocks within the first year of the child's birth or adoption. It is not transferable between parents.
- Paid parental leave can be taken in addition to existing Maternity Leave, Adoptive Leave, Paternity Leave and Parental Leave rights, as applicable to each "relevant" parent. A relevant parent includes a parent or spouse or civil partner or cohabitant of a parent of the child. Parent's Leave can be taken after the expiry of Maternity Leave, Adoptive Leave or Paternity Leave. Parent's Leave is both continuous and reckonable service when calculating redundancy entitlements.
- Parent's Benefit is payable to eligible parents during the paid parental leave and it is currently expected to be €245 per week subject to meeting social security contribution conditions. Self-employed workers may also qualify for Parent's Benefit.
- Employers are not required to top up Parental Benefit, although our experience suggests that some employers will do so in line with their existing policies regarding the top up of Maternity pay and the more recently introduced Paternity pay.
How does it work?
- A parent is eligible to take Parent's Leave in respect of a child born or adopted no earlier than 1 November 2019. The employee must give six weeks' notice in writing of the proposed Parent's Leave;
- The employer may, in limited circumstances, postpone Parent's Leave 4 weeks' before the proposed start date. The postponed Parent's Leave must be granted within 12 weeks of the original date;
- The employee has a right to return to work after Parent's Leave on the same terms and conditions as before;
- The employee is protected from penalisation connected to taking Parent's Leave; and
- The WRC can order the granting of the Parent's Leave and / or compensation of up to 2 weeks' remuneration where there is a breach. Employers must keep records of parental leave for 8 years.
The Bill is scheduled to be debated in the Seanad (Senate) today and is expected to be passed into law by 1 November 2019.