78. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if employers are permitted to require parents to take parental leave in a single 18-week block rather than as a few days per week over successive weeks; his views on whether such a requirement from an employer will push some parents out of work in view of the fact some parents will not be in a position to take 18 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27284/19]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): As the Deputy will be aware, the Parental Leave Act 1998 provides that a parent who completes one year of continuous employment shall be entitled to maximum of 18 weeks of parental leave.
Sections 7(1)(a) and (aa) of the Act provide that an employee has a statutory entitlement to take parental leave in either (i) a continuous period of 18 weeks, or (ii) in two separate periods of not less than 6 weeks and not exceeding 18 weeks in total.
In addition, from 19th July a parent will be entitled to take parental leave in blocks of one or more weeks at a time.
An employer cannot require an employee to take parental leave in a single large block of more than 6 weeks.
In addition, section 7(1)(b) of the 1998 Act provides that employees may take parental leave in days or hours. However leave taken in this manner can only be done so with the consent of their employer.
The Deputy will also be aware that following commencement of the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019, the maximum period of parental leave will increase from 18 to 22 weeks from 1st September this year, and to 26 weeks from 1st September 2020.
To give effect to this increase, my officials are currently preparing a commencement order to be signed by Minister Flanagan in the coming weeks.