The Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 was signed into law on 22 May 2019. It introduces important changes to parental leave from September, as well as two weeks of paid leave for parents during the first 12 months of their baby’s life. This latter change will take effect from November 2019.
Currently, the parents of children aged up to eight years are entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child. If the child has a disability or long-term illness, the age is extended from 8 to 16 years. The same conditions apply for people acting in loco parentis.
Try to remember
Under the new act, employees will be entitled to 22 weeks’ parental leave from 1 September 2019 – or an additional four weeks on current entitlements. From 1 September 2020, the entitlement will increase by another four weeks, to 26 weeks.
The new act also increases the maximum age of the child for whom parental leave can be taken, from 8 years to 12 years.
The act is expected to be commenced by statutory instrument before the summer recess.
From November 2019, employees will be able to take two week’s paid parental leave benefit during the first 12 months of their baby’s life under the Government’s Parental Leave Scheme.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will pay the parental benefit at the same rate as maternity and paternity benefit, which is currently €245 per week. It will be at the discretion of individual employers if they wish to ‘top up’ the payment to salary level.
Use it or lose it
The benefit is a non-transferable ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ right. The aim is to encourage dads to avail of the statutory benefit during the first year of their newborn’s life. The Government intends to increase the benefit incrementally up to seven weeks by 2021.
According to employment law expert Kady O’Connell (Mason, Hayes & Curran), the new legislation signals important changes for employees with families – and their employers.
“Employers should consider whether they intend to ‘top-up’ parental leave benefit,” she says. “They should also consider revising their parental leave policies and procedures to reflect the new changes.”
And further developments could be in the offing. The European Commission has proposed additional changes as part of a new EU Directive on Work-Life Balance in order to address women's underrepresentation in the labour market. It is focusing on how greater flexibility could be incorporated into how parental leave might be taken.