New paid parental leave scheme to start in November
Paid parental leave to start in November
The introduction of paid parental leave was signposted by the government last October when it announced that a paid parental leave scheme would be introduced by November 2019. Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan recently published the general scheme of the relevant implementing legislation which should allow the technical and administrative arrangements to be put in place for the target launch date in November.
Existing entitlement to parental leave
Under existing parental leave legislation, employees with a minimum of 12 months’ continuous service who are natural or adoptive parents are currently entitled to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave for each child under 8 years of age. If an employee has completed between 3 and 12 months’ continuous service and their child is near the maximum age limit (further details set out below), they are entitled to prorate their parental leave and take a week for each month of service. Parental leave is available to each parent and is only transferable from one parent to the other if both parents work for the same employer and the employer agrees to a proposed transfer.
Unpaid parental leave must be taken before the child/children reach the age of 8 with some exceptions:
- if a child is adopted between the ages of 6-8 the parent must apply for parental leave within 2 years of the adoption date,
- if the child has a disability or has a long term illness, the parent/s can take parental leave up to the age of 16
State benefit now attached to parental leave for children under 1 year of age
As it stands, there is no state benefit attaching to parental leave or a statutory obligation on employers to make payments to employees while they are on parental leave. The general scheme of the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2019 sets out details of a 2-week paid parental leave benefit (of €245 per week) paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection which must be taken within the first 12 months of the child’s birth. While the benefit is provided to both parents, it is non-transferable and only available on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis.
These conditions are designed to incentivise fathers to take more time off to care for their children. This latest family-friendly benefit leave is available in addition to existing maternity, paternity, adoptive and unpaid parental leave. The general scheme is silent on extending paid parental further but the government has committed to increasing the duration of the benefit to seven weeks of paid leave by 2021.
The general scheme includes proposals to close a loophole in the existing law, which prevents male same-sex couples from receiving adoptive leave and benefit.
Reaction to the proposals
There has been a mixed response from employers’ groups to the proposals. While efforts to challenge the existing culture regarding work, gender and childcare duties are welcomed, paid parental leave will represent another family-friendly state benefit alongside maternity, paternity, adoptive and unpaid parental leave. There is a concern that employers may struggle to understand their obligations under the various heads and that employees may not be aware of their multiple entitlements.
What to do to prepare
With an ever-increasing range of family-friendly leaves and benefits, employers should review existing procedures to ensure that systems are in place to handle the impact of managing an additional period of paid leave. Paid parental leave is on schedule to be available to parents of children born on or after 1 November 2019.
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