Extended Parental Leave
New legislation has been introduced in Ireland that enhances the parental leave entitlement for employees. Currently, the Parental Leave Acts 1998–2006 entitle parents of, or persons acting in loco parentis to, children up to 8 years old (or up to 16 years old if the child has a disability or long-term illness) to 18 working weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child.
The recently enacted Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 extends the parental leave entitlement to 26 weeks for each child. The additional eight weeks will be introduced in phases, with four of those weeks available beginning on September 1, 2019, and the other four weeks available beginning on September 1, 2020.
The act also increases the age of the child for which parental leave can be taken from 8 to 12.
Paid Parental Leave
The Irish government also intends to introduce, as part of Budget 2019, the country’s first paid parental leave law. It is scheduled to take effect in November 2019 and will cover both employed and self-employed parents. This paid parental leave will be in addition to existing unpaid parental leave and other forms of paid leave such as maternity, paternity, and adoptive leave entitlements.
The law will initially provide two weeks’ paid parental leave for each child and will incrementally increase this allotment to seven weeks over the next three years. Paid parental leave will be nontransferable and available to parents in the first year after a child’s birth or placement in cases of adoption. It will be paid at the same rate as statutory Maternity Benefit and Paternity Benefit, currently EUR 245 per week.
The General Scheme of the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 was published in April 2019, and approval has been granted for priority drafting of the bill.
The aim of these changes is to provide more flexibility to working parents who are trying to balance work and family life commitments. These amendments are timely given that the EU has recently adopted a new directive on work-life balance for parents and carers (Directive (EU) 2019/1158) that is scheduled to take effect on August 2, 2022.
With the implementation of these amendments, employers may want to consider the implications for their workplaces, including whether their policies and procedures are up to date and reflect the new law. Employers may also want to consider whether they will provide “top-up” payments in addition to the statutory parental leave payment and, if so, to what extent.
Written by Aoife Gallagher-Watson and Richard Smith of William Fry LLC and Roger James of Ogletree Deakins
© 2019 William Fry and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.