Employment Update: Are Increased Parental Leave Entitlements on the Way?
04 July 2018
In Ireland, the parental leave entitlements for employees are among the lowest in Europe. The purpose of the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 is to rectify this situation and bring our entitlements into line with our European counterparts.
Currently, employees are entitled to unpaid parental leave of 18 weeks per child to be taken no later than the child’s 8th birthday, or 16th birthday in the case of a child with a serious illness or disability. Parental leave can be taken in one continuous period, two separate blocks, or as otherwise agreed with the employer.
The Bill proposes to extend unpaid parental leave entitlement from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. The Bill also proposes to increase the qualifying age of the child from 8 to 12. The Bill proposes that parents who have already availed of some parental leave under the old rules will also benefit from the increased entitlement provided their children meet the revised qualifying criteria.
The increase in the qualifying age reflects EU developments in this regard and recognises that parents are best placed to determine the needs of their families.
The Bill is currently at an advanced stage of the legislative process.
Amid calls from various stakeholders, the Irish Government has convened an interdepartmental working group which is looking at proposals relating to paid parental leave. A report is expected imminently and it is anticipated that paid parental leave will be provided for in Budget 2019.
There is also a work-life balance directive under discussion at EU level which recognises that paid parental leave will encourage fathers to become more involved as carers to their children. This directive is one of a stream of EU measures which aim to address the underrepresentation of females in the workplace and the creation of improved working conditions which allow females to balance their responsibilities outside of work with their employment.
The Bill is already enjoying widespread support across Government. This may be due to the fact that there appears to be a trend towards a more family-friendly working culture. We are seeing other legislation being enacted recently which fosters this trend generally. If, and when, the Bill is eventually enacted, it is likely that there will be some amendments to the way it is currently drafted.
Employers should be aware that this legislation may be coming down the track and keep up to date with their obligations in this regard.
For more information on any future statutory initiatives which support this trend and how they may affect your business, contact a member of our Employment & Benefits team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.