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New Unpaid Parental Leave Entitlement
The Parental Leave Acts allow parents to take parental leave from employment in respect of certain children. Under the Parental Leave Act 1998, parents of children up to 8 years old (or 16 years old where the child has a disability) are currently entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave provided they have one year’s service with their employer.
Upcoming Changes to Unpaid Parental Leave
A number of changes to parental leave are due to take place in 2019 and 2020. These include:
- The parental leave entitlement is set to increase from 18 weeks to 26 weeks.
- The increase is being introduced gradually – the entitlement will be 22 weeks of parental leave from September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2020, before increasing to 26 weeks from September 1, 2020, onwards. Employees who have already taken their current entitlement will be able to take the additional 8 weeks of leave provided they meet the eligibility requirements.
- The leave may now be taken at any time prior to the child turning 12 years old rather than 8 years old.
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.
Paid Parental leave Entitlement
The Government has only published the General Scheme for the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019, and regulations will supplement this Act when passed. Under the General Scheme, it is proposed:
- A parent who has one year’s continuous service with their employer shall be entitled to take Paid Parental Leave for children born or placed for adoption on or after November 1, 2019.
- Leave must be taken after birth or placement for adoption and must be taken within 52 weeks of birth or placement.
Each parent must “use it or lose it”, the entitlement cannot be transferred.
- The State will pay for the leave benefit at the rate of €245 per week, provided the employee has made sufficient PRSI contributions.
- Leave must be taken in periods of not less than one week.
- Leave may be taken before additional maternity or adoptive leave.
The length of the leave will be set by regulations, but the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has announced it will commence at two weeks’ paid leave and shall increase incrementally up to seven weeks’ leave by 2021.