Parental Leave Extended to 18 Weeks
Regulations signed by Minister for Justice and Defence have given effect to EU Directive extending the period under the Parental Leave Act 1998 so that each parent is now entitled to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave.
The Principal Act is also amended to include in the definition of “employee”, a part-time employee and a fixed-term employee,”, as defined by the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001; and the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003.
The leave must be taken before the child is 8 years of age, or 16 years of age in the case of children with disabilities or long term illness. This leave is non-transferable between the parents, except where both parents work for the same employer and with the agreement of the employer. Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave.
You must give written notice to your employer of your intention to take parental leave. You should inform your employer in writing at least 6 weeks before the leave is due to start. The notice should state the starting date and how long the leave will last. After this not less than 4 weeks before the leave is due to start, you will need to sign a document with your employer confirming the details of the leave.
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 your employer agrees you can separate your leave into periods of days or even hours.
Parental leave is to be used only to take care of the child concerned. If the parental leave is taken and used for another purpose the employer is entitled to cancel the leave.
A new Section is introduced to the Act which gives parents a right to request a change in working hours or patterns, or both, for a set period on return from parental leave. The request must be in writing to the Employer as soon as reasonably practicable but not later than 6 weeks before the proposed commencement of the set period concerned setting out the specific changes requested and the period of duration.
The Employer must consider the request having regard to the needs of the employer and of the employee and, as soon as reasonably practicable but not later than 4 weeks after such receipt, inform the employee of the decision in writing.
If the request is being granted a written agreement must be put in place detailing the changes and the period of duration including the commencement date. Both parties must sign the agreement and a copy given to the employee. The Employee may revoke their request up to the date of signing the agreement in writing to the Employer.
Employers must keep records of all parental leave taken by their employees. These records must include the period of employment of each employee and the dates and times of the leave taken. Employers must keep these records for 8 years. If an employer fails to keep records they may be liable to a fine of up to €2000.
Employees and employers are entitled to refer a dispute about an entitlement under the Acts to a Rights Commissioner. A dispute about parental leave must be referred to a Rights Commissioner within 6 months of the dispute.
DJ OMeara and Sons Solicitors – Employment Law