Improved benefits for working parents

10/06/2019

Two Bills proposing changes available to working parents are expected to pass into law before the end of the year.

The first proposes to increase parental leave from 18 to 26 weeks for children up to 12 years of age. The second provides for 2 weeks of paid parental benefit during the first year of a child’s life.

Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (the Parental Leave Bill)

Deirdre Malone, a member of the Employment and Equality Law Committee and a partner with Ronan Daly Jermyn, advises that the Parental Leave Bill was passed through Seanad Éireann on 8 May 2019, with some amendments. It is expected that the Seanad’s amendments to the Bill will be approved by Dáil Éireann and signed by the President before the summer recess. It provides the following changes:

  1. Increasing 18 working weeks’ parental leave to 26 weeks’ leave.
  2. Increasing the current entitlement to take this leave for each child up to 8 years (or up to 16 years if the child has a long term illness or disability) to age 12.
  3. Parents who have already used their 18 weeks’ leave will also qualify for the additional 8 weeks proposed in the Bill.

It is expected that the leave will be introduced on a phased basis with 4 weeks of additional parental leave available to take from September 2019, increasing by a further 4 weeks from September 2020. This will allow small businesses the time to prepare for the new regime.

Parental Leave and Benefit Bill (“Parental Benefit Bill”)

Deirdre further advises that on 23 April 2019, the Government announced the concept of paid parental leave to fulfil the commitment given in Budget 2019 last autumn. It is expected that the Bill will be enacted by November 2019. It provides the following benefit to working parents:

  1. A relevant parent (mother, father, spouse, civil partner or co-habitant of a relevant parent, or parent where the child is a donor-conceived child, as well as parents of adopted children) will be entitled to two weeks’ paid parental leave (likely to be paid at the same level as maternity leave) during the first year of the child’s birth or adoption (from 1 November 2019).
  2. Parental leave must be used for the purpose of taking care of, or providing assistance in the provision of care to the child.
  3. An employer may suspend any period of probation, apprenticeship or training while an employee is on parental leave. The employee will have to complete that period of probation, apprenticeship or training following their return to work.
  4. The benefit will apply equally to employees, and to those who are self-employed.
  5. The working parent will receive €245 per week, or an amount equivalent to illness benefit (whichever is the greater).

Although not currently included in the draft Parental Benefit Bill, it is expected that working parents will ultimately be able to benefit from 7 weeks’ paid leave under the scheme, as it develops incrementally over the next three years.

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This article originally appeared in the May 2019 Member eZine. For more information, and to subscribe, see eNewsletters.