Under the Parental Leave Act 1998 - 2013, parents who have worked for their employer for 12 months are allowed to take 18 weeks unpaid parental leave from employment in respect of the following children:
- A child up to the age of 8 years;
- If a child was adopted between the ages of 6 and 8, parental leave may be taken up to 2 years after the date of the adoption order;
- In the case of a child with a disability or a long term illness parental leave may be taken up to the age of 16 years.
- Employees who have children near the age thresholds and who have been working for their employer for less than one year but more than three months are entitled to a pro-rated amount of parental leave of one weeks leave for every month of employment completed.
Employees who have more than one child may only take 18 weeks parental leave in a 12 month period.This does not apply to employees who have twins/triplets etc who may avail of more than 18 weeks in a year.
Legally, parental leave entitlement may be taken in one continuous period or in two separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks and there must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between any 2 periods of parental leave per child, but employers may agree a different pattern of leave at their discretion.
Parental leave must be applied for in writing at least 6 weeks in advance of intended commencement date and once agreed in writing may not be postponed without further written agreement of the parties.
Employers have the right to postpone parental leave once for up to 6 months for reasons such as other employees being on parental leave.One further postponement is only allowed due to seasonal variations in the work being carried out.
All employment rights other than pay and pension contributions remain intact during periods of parental leave including the accrual of annual leave and public holiday entitlement.
Employees are entitled to return to their normal position after parental leave unless it is not reasonably practical to do so. In this case, a suitable alternative on terms and conditions no less favourable than the previous position held must be available.