Parent’s Leave and Benefit Bill 2019
This Bill will provide working parents with an extra two weeks paid leave to spend with their child under 12 months of age. The new law will apply to parents of a child born or adopted from 1 November 2019 and benefit will be paid at the same rate as Maternity and Paternity Benefits.
The Parent’s Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 provides each parent of a child under one with the right to two weeks parent’s leave and for a corresponding social insurance benefit, called Parent’s Benefit. The Bill allows an increase in this leave for up to nine weeks.
Parent’s leave is for a child born after 1 November 2019 and must be taken before the child is 12 months old. The Bill describes how the leave must be taken in different circumstances. A mother must take maternity leave before taking parent’s leave and similarly, an adopting parent must take adoptive leave before taking parent’s leave. For fathers, paternity and parent’s leave can be taken in either order. The Bill ensures that a parent will not lose out if there is a delay in the commencement of the legislation.
In a sensitive development, parents retain their entitlement to parent’s leave if the child dies while the parent is eligible for parent’s leave. This stands even if the employee has not given notice of the leave. In essence, it provides two weeks leave for a parent on the death of their child under one year if parent's leave has not been taken.
Employees will be required to give six weeks’ notice to their employer, setting out the expected start date and the duration of the planned leave. If a child is born more than four weeks before the expected date of birth, the parent must give notice within seven days of the birth. Similarly, if the date of placement of an adopted child is postponed or where the child’s birth occurs later, the parent can select another date, but must still comply with the sequencing of leaves (i.e maternity or adoptive leave will always be taken first).
A parent may request the postponement of the parent’s leave on the hospitalisation of the child, and then take any postponed leave within seven days of the child’s discharge from the hospital or at an agreed date.
An employer may postpone the commencement of parent’s leave for up to 12 weeks where it would have a substantial adverse effect on the business. Reasons allowed include:
seasonal variations in the volume of work; the unavailability of a replacement to carry out the employee’s work; the nature of the employee’s duties; the number of other employees also taking parent’s leave; other relevant matters.
All employment rights are protected while an employee is on parent’s leave. Absence on parent’s leave does not affect the employee’s rights other than to remuneration. A period of absence on parent’s leave cannot be treated as part of any other leave. An employer can suspend probation, training or an apprenticeship for the duration of parent’s leave. Employees are fully protected from penalisation, including dismissal, the threat of dismissal, unfair treatment, the unfavourable change in terms and conditions, for exercising the entitlement to parent’s leave.
Once the period of parent’s leave has ended, the employee has the right to return to his / her normal job and to terms and conditions that are no less favourable than those when the employee began the parent’s leave.
Where an employee is not permitted to return to work, the employee is deemed to have been dismissed by reason of redundancy and the provisions of the Redundancy Payments Acts apply. The employee will also be deemed to have been dismissed unfairly under the Unfair Dismissals Acts unless there are substantial grounds justifying the dismissal.
Disputes will be dealt with by the Workplace Relations Commission. An adjudication may grant the parent’s leave or award compensation not exceeding pay for the number of weeks of parent’s leave (two weeks initially).
The Bill amends the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 to add Parent’s Benefit to the list of insurance-based benefits and will be available to both employees and the self-employed. The relevant parent can qualify for parent’s benefit if she or he is an employed contributor and is certified by the employer that he or she is entitled to parent’s leave, or is in insurable self-employment. A person who has satisfied the PRSI contribution conditions for Maternity/ Paternity/Adoptive Benefit will be deemed to be eligible for Parent’s Benefit.
The rate of Parent’s Benefit will initially be €245 per week, equivalent to the Illness Benefit rate, and can be paid in a continuous period or in periods of one week. The relevant parent will not be entitled to claim Parent’s Benefit more than once where he or she has multiple births or adopts more than one child simultaneously.