Where an employee has an urgent family crisis, that employee may be entitled to take paid time off work to attend to that emergency. This is known as Force Majeure Leave, and it is a statutory entitlement that qualifying employees enjoy.
The law governing force majeure leave is contained in the Parental Leave Acts 1998-2013.
The law provides for paid time off from work where, for urgent family reasons, the immediate presence of the employee is indispensable owing to an injury or illness of a close family member (S.13 of the Parental Leave Act 1998).
To qualify for force majeure leave, the employee must be able to demonstrate that their attendance is both urgent and required immediately. An employee is not entitled to plan to take force majeure leave and it cannot be used to take a close family member to a pre-arranged appointment.
Force majeure leave cannot be used where the employee has had reasonable time to make alternative arrangements for the family member’s care or has had reasonable time to apply for another form of leave (such as annual leave).
In determining whether an employee’s attendance is urgent and immediate, the employer must give due consideration to the circumstances prevailing at the time of the request and take steps to determine all the relevant information first-hand from the employee.
In addition, to qualify for force majeure leave, the employee must be able to demonstrate that their attendance at the place where the close family member is physically situated is deemed indispensable. An employee is not entitled to take force majeure leave where the necessary level of support can be provided remotely.
Finally, to qualify for force majeure leave, the family member must fall within the following categories of close family members set out by statute:
- Child or adopted child of the employee;
- Husband, Wife, Civil Partner or Partner of the employee;
- Parent or Grandparent of the employee;
- Brother or Sister of the employee;
- Person to whom the employee has a Duty of Care – acting in loco parentis (in place of a parent);
- A person in a position of Domestic Dependency with the employee; or
- Person of any other class (if any) as may be prescribed.
In terms of the entitlement itself, qualifying employees are entitled to a maximum of 3 days in a 12 month period or 5 days in 36 month period.
An employee must notify their employer as soon as practically possible that they need to avail of force majeure leave. Immediately following the employee’s return to work, that employee must make an application in writing to the employer for the leave taken to be considered force majeure leave.
That application should include the employee’s name, PPS number, name and address of the employer, dates on which the leave was taken, the reason why the leave was taken and the employee’s relationship to the person who was injured or ill. Employers may also request that the employee provides a medical certificate in respect of the injury or illness.
It is important to note that force majeure leave is distinct from bereavement leave, and an employee is not entitled to force majeure leave following the death of a close family member.
There is no length of service requirement for an employee to invoke their right to take force majeure leave.
Employers must keep records in respect of force majeure leave taken for each employee.
It is unlawful to dismiss an employee for taking or proposing to take force majeure leave to which they are entitled. Where an employee is dismissed in this situation, the employer would be liable to a claim for unfair dismissal through the Workplace Relations Commission.
If you have any queries regarding the application of force majeure leave please contact the advice line on 01 886 0350