The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Mr Alan Shatter, T.D., today (8 March 2013) signed regulations extending parental leave from 14 weeks to 18 weeks. The changes give effect to EU Council Directive 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 which implements a revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by the European Social Partners.
On making the Regulations the Minister commented: "It is important that we support parents of young children in the difficult balancing act of caring for a young family and working."
The Regulations also allow parents returning from back to work from parental leave to request a change in their working hours or pattern. Employers must consider such a request but are not required to grant it.
Minister Shatter continued: "I am firmly of the belief that supports such as Parental Leave are very important because they give mothers and fathers an equal role in the caring of children. This is important on many levels, not least in breaking down stereotypes about child care. I also hope that it will encourage and enable working women to remain in the workforce after they have children".
This new regulations apply to all children who currently qualify for parental leave – children under 8 years of age, or in the case of child with a disability or long term illness, under 16 years of age.
8 March, 2013
NOTE FOR EDITORS
Since 18 May 2006, unpaid parental leave can be taken in respect of a child up to 8 years of age (previously was 5 years). If a child was adopted between the age of 6 and 8, leave in respect of that child may be taken up to 2 years after the date of the adoption order. In the case of a child with a disability leave may be taken up to 16 years of age. In addition an extension may also be allowed where illness or other incapacity prevented the employee taking the leave within the normal period.
The Directive now being transposed increases the amount of parental leave available to each parent per child from 14 weeks to 18 weeks; it provides that at least 4 weeks (i.e. the amount of extra leave provided for in the Directive) must be non-transferable between parents; and it provides that a parent returning to work has the right to ask for a change in work pattern for a set period – the employer is obliged to consider the request, but not obliged to concede it.
Parental leave is available for each child. Where an employee has more than one child, parental leave is limited to 18 weeks in a 12-month period. This can be longer if the employer agrees. Parents of twins or triplets can take more than 18 weeks of parental leave in a year. The 18 weeks per child may be taken in one continuous period or in 2 separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the 2 periods of parental leave per child. However, if the employer agrees it is possible to separate leave into periods of days or even hours. Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. Leave cannot be transferred between parents, unless they both work for the same employer and the employer agrees, in which case it is possible to transfer the parental leave entitlement from one parent to the other.