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  • Writer's picturePrincipal Consultant

Employment Rights for Parents in Ireland

In Ireland, there are various leave entitlements specifically designed to support working parents, and it is crucial for all employers to be familiar with these options. It's important to note that some parents may be eligible for leave under multiple schemes simultaneously.

Maternity Leave: Female employees are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave if they become pregnant. This applies to all employment arrangements, whether full-time, part-time, or casual, regardless of the duration of employment with the company. Maternity leave must be taken at least 2 weeks before the baby's due date but not earlier than 16 weeks before and at least 4 weeks after the baby is born.

During maternity leave, employees are eligible for Maternity Benefits based on a certain level of Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. Currently, Maternity Benefit is set at €250 per week, which is taxable income collected by adjusting tax credits and allowances. While employers aren't obligated to pay during maternity leave, employees have the right to take an additional 16 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, and some employers may choose to provide payment during this period, with the option to reclaim the employee's maternity benefit provided by the State.

Paternity Leave: New parents are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Employers are not obligated to provide payment during this leave period. However, employees can take paternity leave any time within six months after the child's birth. For those adopting, paternity leave applies to the parent not taking adoptive leave.

Qualifying employees are entitled to paternity benefit, currently set at €250 per week for the two weeks of leave, paid by the State. Some employers may choose to pay their employees during this leave period and then recover their state entitlements.

Adoptive Leave: One of the adoptive parents is entitled to 24 weeks of adoptive leave starting from the day the child is placed with them. Employers aren't obliged to pay during this leave, but employees may qualify for adoptive benefits paid by the State. Employees can also opt for up to 16 weeks of additional unpaid adoptive leave.

During adoptive leave, employees can receive €250 per week, limited to the first 24 weeks after the child is placed. Employers who choose to pay employees during this leave will treat it similarly to salary pay on maternity leave.

Parental Leave: Parents and legal guardians in Ireland are entitled to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave, known as Parental Leave, available until the child reaches 12 years old or 16 years old for children with disabilities. Employees are required to provide their employers with six weeks' notice before taking parental leave. Typically, this leave should be taken as one continuous period or in blocks of at least six weeks, unless otherwise agreed upon. To be eligible, employees must have been employed by their current employer for a minimum of 12 months. There is no entitlement to financial support from either the employer or the State during this leave.

Parent's Leave: Introduced through the Parent's Leave and Benefit Act 2019 (later amended by the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021), eligible parents with children up to two years of age can enjoy an extra 5 weeks of paid leave each, supplemented by the State's parent's benefit, currently set at €250 per week. Employers are not obligated to pay during this leave, but some may choose to do so, later reclaiming the State benefits on behalf of their employees.

In the Budget 2022, Parent's Leave was extended to 7 weeks.

Parent's leave can be taken as a continuous period of 5-7 weeks or in separate blocks, each lasting no less than one week. The leave cannot be transferred between parents, except in specific, predefined circumstances.

Eligible individuals for Parent's Leave include parents of children, spouses, civil partners, or cohabitants of the parents of the child, parents of a donor-conceived child, and adopting parents or parents of a child.

State Benefits for Working Parents In most cases, working parents can avail themselves of state benefits during their leave periods. To access these benefits, employees need to apply directly to the Department of Employment and Social Protection. It is essential to include a certificate signed by the employer, confirming the employee's employment and entitlements for the benefit. It's important to note that these benefits are subject to a certain level of PRSI contributions.

While employers are not obligated to pay employees during these periods, some companies may choose to do so. Employers offering compensation during this time may be entitled to reclaim the employee's state benefit as a result. It's a mutually beneficial situation for both parties!

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