Update: The most recent increases to the parental leave entitlements introduced by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 will apply beginning 1 September 2020. Employees will now be entitled to take 26 weeks of unpaid parental leave, compared to the previous 22 weeks

The Irish government is introducing two changes to expand family leave benefits. The first change, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019, or “the Act,” will extend the existing unpaid parental leave for each child from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. The Act passed on 22 May 2019, and will enter into force in two phases: the first phase will increase parental leave to 22 weeks as of 1 September 2019, and the second phase will ultimately increase parental leave to 26 weeks as of 1 September 2020.

In addition, the Irish government introduced a new paid parental leave plan through the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019, or “the Bill.” The Bill would give each working parent a total of seven weeks paid leave during a child’s first year of life. The Bill and its implementing regulations, including the timeline for phasing in the seven weeks benefit by 2021, should be passed by November 2019.

Key details

Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019

Currently, 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave is available for each child, so long as the employee takes the leave no later than the child’s eighth birthday or, in the case of a child with a disability or a long-term illness, up to the age of 16.

The Act amends the Parental Leave Act 1998 and will increase the parental leave to a total of 26 weeks for each child by September 2020. In addition, the Act increases the child’s age limit during which parental leave is eligible from 8 to 12 years of age. If parents have already taken some, or all, of the current 18 weeks of leave, they will still be eligible for the extra eight weeks of parental leave if their child is still eligible.

Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019

The Bill seeks to add on to the current statutory maternity and paternity leave policy with a new government paid parental leave for each parent during the child’s first year of life. The standard rate of payment will be approximately EUR 245 per week. The new paid parental leave cannot be transferred. “Parents” are defined as the mother or father of the child, or a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the mother (as defined by Section 2 of the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016).

To qualify for the leave the following conditions must be met:

  • The parent must be in their current employment for a minimum of one year.
  • The leave may be taken only after the child has been born.
  • The leave may only be taken up until the child is one-year-old.
  • In the case of multiple births, only one period of leave is available to each parent.
  • Leave must be taken at minimum in one-week periods.

The first two weeks of paid parental leave for each parent are expected to be introduced for children born after 1 November 2019. By then, the implementation regulations are expected to be available which will indicate the timeline for the increase to seven weeks by 2021.

Next steps

Employers should prepare for the increased parental leave period and modify their policies in accordance with the Act. Employers should also monitor the implementation timeline of the Bill and update their policies and procedures accordingly. Supplemental payment will be at the employer’s discretion.