The Shared Maternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2018 was proposed in July of this year. If enacted, it will allow pregnant women to share their normal 26 weeks’ maternity leave with a “relevant parent”. A relevant parent is defined as “the father of the child, the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the mother of the child.”
Under current legislation, the Maternity Protection Act 1994 – 2004, pregnant mothers are entitled to take 26 weeks’ paid maternity leave and 16 additional unpaid weeks.
Fathers can only take the mother’s maternity leave in the unfortunate event of the mother’s death. Relevant parents are, however, entitled to take two weeks’ paid paternity leave since September 2016.
A relevant parent will be able to avail of their paternity leave as well shared maternity leave if the Bill is enacted.
Employees can also take unpaid parental leave. Parental leave can be taken by employees who are natural or adoptive/adopting parents or who are acting in loco parentis. The entitlement to parental leave is 18 weeks’ unpaid leave per parent.
The change in maternity legislation is aimed to facilitate more involvement from both parents in caring for their child. There may also be financial benefits for parents who are allowed to share maternity leave.
If enacted, the relevant parent will be able to claim maternity benefit through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the leave is being shared.
The Bill also refers to supporting adopting parents, in addition to mothers.
The definition of relevant parent provides where a child is adopted then the relevant parent is the spouse selected by the adopting couple.
The Bill does not currently provide for adoptive leave to be shared under the Bill. A provision for shared Adoptive will likely be looked at if the Bill progresses.
To take shared leave, a relevant parent would have to provide their employer with the required 4 weeks’ notice in writing as required by the current legislation, before commencing a period of shared leave.
Employees will not have the authority to reject or postpone requests for shared maternity leave.
Further information of the Bill will be communicated once received. If you have any questions regarding family-friendly entitlements, please contact the advice line on 1890 253 369