The entitlement to parental leave and force majeure leave in Irish employment law are conferred by the Parental Leave Act, 1998 and 2006. A natural or adoptive parent whose child has reached the age of 8 is entitled to fourteen working weeks of parental leave.
The parent must have at least one year’s continuous service and the leave can be taken in one block of fourteen weeks or, with the employer’s consent, a combination of days and hours.
The parent is obliged to give at least six weeks’ notice of intention to take parental leave and it is a condition of the leave that it be used to take care of a child.
The employer can postpone parental leave for no more than six months where the leave would have an adverse effect on his/her business.
Parental leave is unpaid leave and unlike maternity leave the employee is not entitled to any social welfare payments. However employees on parental leave benefit from all other employment benefits apart from remuneration and pension benefits.
UPDATE MARCH 2013:
Parental leave arrangements changed in Ireland on the 8th March, 2013 with the introduction of statutory instrument 81 of 2013, European Union (Parental Leave) Regulations 2013.
These regulations transposed into Irish law EU directive 2010/18/EU.
The big change is an increase in an entitlement to parental leave to 18 weeks and the right to return to work to the same or an equivalent job.
In addition, workers must be allowed to request changes to their working hours/working pattern for a set period of time.
Force Majeure Leave
Force majeure leave is actually paid leave. It occurs where for urgent family reasons owing to illness or injury the immediate presence of the employee is required where the injured/ill person is.
It may be taken in respect of a child, spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent or person to whom the employee is in loco parentis.
Force majeure leave cannot exceed three days in any period of twelve months or exceed five days in a period of thirty six consecutive months. (Note: circular 32/2007 from the Department of Enterprise and Skills affords slightly different arrangements in the education sector in respect of force majeure leave)
Other Types of Leave
Other types of leave include
- Adoptive leave
- Carer’s leave
All of these leave entitlements, in addition to maternity leave, have slightly different requirements, entitlements for employees, and obligations for employers.
The Adoptive Leave Acts, 1995 and 2005 provide for adoptive leave in Ireland. A mother or sole male adopter is entitled to 24 consecutive weeks of unpaid adoptive leave. There is an entitlement to an additional 16 weeks of adoptive leave, again unpaid. There are social welfare benefits available to the employee.
As with maternity leave the employee is obliged to give four weeks written notice of taking the leave and/or returning to work.
The employee continues to accrue his/her entitlements with the exception of remuneration.
The Adoptive Leave Act, 2005 provides further entitlements to the employee including
- Time off for pre-adoption classes and meetings
- The postponement of adoptive leave in the event of the hospitilisation of the child.
Disputes about Adoptive Leave
Disputes around adoptive leave (save for an unfair dismissals claim as a result of the failure of the employer to allow the return to work) are referred to the Rights Commissioner service.
Carer’s leave entitlements are granted to employees who have at least 12 months continuous service courtesy of the Carer’s Leave Act 2001. It allows employees to temporarily leave employment for between 13 and 104 weeks to allow caring full time.
Carers may be entitled to carer’s benefit and are permitted to work for a maximum of 15 hours per week while on leave.
To qualify for carer’s leave an employee will need, inter alia, a medical assessment that the person for howm he/she will be caring is in need of a full time carer. The employee’s entitlements in employment will not be affected apart from those relating to remuneration, holidays, and pensions.
Disputes between employer and employee in respect of carer’s leave must be referred to the Rights Commissioner service in the first instance.
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