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Parental Leave

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The EU Directive (96/34/EC) on parental leave set minimum standards to be met by Member States, and was enshrined in Irish law in the Parental Leave Act, 1998. The Act enables men and women to avail of a continuous block of 14 weeks unpaid leave from employment. There is also provision for limited paid leave (force majeure leave), to enable employees to deal with family emergencies.


The Act covers all employees who are;

  • employed under a contract of employment or contract of apprenticeship
  • employed by employment agencies. In this case it is the person who is liable to pay the wages who is deemed to be the employer for the purposes of the legislation.

Entitlement to parental leave

Each parent is entitled to 14 weeks parental leave for each child born or adopted. The leave must be taken before the child reaches eight years of age, except, in certain circumstances, in the case of an adopted child. In the case of a child with a disability, the age limit is 16 years.

Adoptive children

If a child is under six years at the time of the adoption, the leave must be taken before the child reaches eight years of age. However, if the child is aged between six and eight years at the time of the adoption, the leave must be taken within two years of the adoption order.

Minimum service requirement

An employee must have at least one year's continuous service with the employer before being entitled to take parental leave. However, where the employee has more than three months' but less than one year's service, and where the child is approaching the age threshold, the employee will be entitled to one week's leave for every month of continuous employment completed with the employer.

No transfer of leave

Each parent has a separate entitlement to parental leave from his or her job but the leave may not be transferred between the parents i.e. the mother cannot take the father's leave, and vice versa. Parental leave may be transferrred between parents who are in the same place of employment.

Manner in which leave may be taken

The leave may be taken:

  • as a continuous block of 14 weeks, or,
  • two separate blocks of not less than six weeks with a minimum of 10 weeks between each block, or,
  • by agreement with the employer, may be broken up over a period of time into individual days, weeks or hours.
An employee is not entitled to any more than 14 weeks leave per child.

Where an employee qualifies for parental leave in respect of more than one child, the employee may not take more than 14 weeks' parental leave in any 12-month period, unless the employer agrees otherwise. However, this restriction does not apply in the case of children of a multiple birth (i.e. twins, triplets, etc.).

An exception to this rule is contained in the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act, 2006. If on the date of the commencement of the Act, 18 May 2006, an individual has a child aged between seven and eight years of age and has already taken parental leave in respect of another child within that year, he/she will not be precluded from taking parental leave for the older child. This provision is only valid until 18 May 2007. A similar rule applies to child with a disability approaching the age of 16 years.

For More information on this act contact the General Secretary, Matt Carroll, on 01-6761989