Budget 2020 introduced a new entitlement for working parents in the form of three weeks of additional leave under legislation that would come into effect in April 2021.

Last week that the legislation was finalised when the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2021 passed all stages in the Dáil.

This legislation states that from April 1st, working parents will benefit from the following extensions to family-friendly leave entitlements:

  • An additional three weeks of paid Parents' Leave and Benefit to each parent to be taken in the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.
  • All adopting couples will be able to choose which parent may avail of Adoptive Leave including male same-sex couples who were previously precluded due to an anomaly in legislation.
  • Paternity Leave and Benefit will be made available to the parent who is not availing of adoptive leave.

Paternity, Maternity & Adoptive Benefits

The new Parent’s Leave entitlement is available to employees with children who were born on or after November 1st, 2019. The benefit will be paid at the same rate as maternity, paternity and adoptive benefits.

The introduction of Parent’s Leave in 2019 forms part of the government’s "First Five" strategy, which aims to support young families during the first five years of a child’s life. Parent’s leave is non-transferrable between parents to ensure that both parents are encouraged and supported in taking time out from work to spend time with their child.

Implications for Employers under the New Legislation

From an employer’s perspective, the management of the increasing range of paid family-friendly leave entitlements is a growing challenge. The four main entitlements of maternity leave, paternity leave, adoptive leave, and parent’s leave, all of which have different qualification criteria, require careful management to avoid employee relations issues. These changes don’t cover unpaid parental leave which is available to employees with children aged up to twelve years of age.

As one of the stated aims of Parent’s Leave is to encourage both parents to take time off work during a child’s early years, it is also expected that the non-transferable nature of the leave will translate into both mothers and fathers taking Parent’s Leave (of up to five weeks each) during the first two years after a child’s birth.

Best Practice Response

The best way to handle family-friendly leave entitlements is to have clear policies and procedures in place. Well-drafted, up-to-date policies provide clarity to staff and are vital to keep employers on track when dealing with issues like leave entitlements that are inevitable in the day-to-day management of every organisation.

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