‘Parent’s Leave’ request – How to handle it.

by Antoinette Vahey, partner in Ronan Daly Jermyn’s Employment Group

“I am in receipt of a request from an employee to take five weeks Parent’s leave from 1 to 28 December 2020, due to the announcement in Budget 2021. The run up to Christmas is our busiest time. Can I ask him to take the leave at a later stage? Does he have any other entitlements to leave? How do I handle it?”

Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019

Parent’s leave was introduced by the Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019. It provides 2 weeks leave to “relevant parents” of a child born or adopted on or after 1 November 2019. The leave must be taken within 52 weeks of the child’s birth or placement with their adoptive family. An extension to parent’s leave was originally mooted in the context of Covid supports during the pandemic. Changes to Parent’s leave were officially announced as part of Budget 2021. These changes consist of three additional weeks of parent’s leave and state benefit to eligible employees. In addition, the time frame in which to take parent’s leave has been extended to two years from the child’s birth or placement with their adoptive family. These changes are due to take effect in April 2021.

Therefore, the employee in question above does not have an entitlement to five weeks parent’s leave, as requested by him.

Deferring leave

Having regard to deferring leave, the legislation provides at Section 13, that leave can be postponed by the employer where the taking of leave at the time proposed would cause substantial adverse effect on the operation of the business. Seasonal variations in the volume of work is specifically provided as being a reason why this might be the case. Where you cannot grant leave at the requested time, you should consult with the employee and seek to agree a suitable time. Following which, there is a requirement under the legislation for the employer to issue a formal notice of postponement, setting out the grounds for the postponement, at least 4 weeks before the requested leave is due to start. The leave can only be postponed once and cannot be later than 12 weeks after commencement date specified in the employee’s request.

Types of leave available to Parents

In the past number of years, there has been a significant increase in new entitlements for parents together with an increase in existing entitlements, in an effort to provide a family/work life balance, particularly in a child’s formative years.

However, the pace of changes together with the volume of new legislations has led to confusion amongst employers and employees about the types of leave available.

It is important to highlight that none of the legislation requires an employer to pay their employee who is availing of their leave entitlements; however many employers provide top-ups to state benefits. State benefits are available to employees who have sufficient PRSI contributions and they should contact the Department of Social Protection to determine their eligibility.

We have provided below a useful table which outlines a summary of the key requirements.

TYPE OF LEAVE APPLICABLE TO PERIOD OF TIME NOTICE REQUIRED PAYMENT APPLICABLE LEGISLATION
Maternity leave Female employees 26 weeks and up to 16 unpaid weeks 4 weeks Yes, Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks Yes, Parent’s Benefit is paid for 2 weeks (5 weeks from April 2021)
Adoptive leave Adoptive mothers, Men adopting alone 24 weeks and up to 16 unpaid weeks 4 weeks Yes, Adoptive Benefit is paid for 24 weeks Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 and 2005
Paternity leave New parents of children under 6 months of age (but not the mother of the child) 2 weeks 4 weeks Yes, Paternity Benefit is paid for 2 weeks Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016
Parental leave Parents and guardians of children under 12 26 weeks 6 weeks No, it’s unpaid Parental Leave Acts 1998 to 2019
Parent’s leave Parents of children under 1 year of age (or in first year of adoption) – this will increase to 2 years from April 2021 2 weeks (5 weeks from April 2021) 6 weeks Yes, Parent’s Benefit is paid for 2 weeks (5 weeks from April 2021) Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019

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