Extended parental leave

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 extends parental leave by a further eight weeks

The proposed changes are due to start to come into effect from 1 September 2019.

This legislation extends the period of unpaid parental leave, increases the age of the child, and provides for parents who have already taken parental leave, to receive the additional eight weeks of leave. The main points of the Act are that:

  • From 1 September 2019, a parent will be able to take up to 22 working weeks of unpaid parental leave, an extra four weeks on top of the current 18 weeks
  • From 1 September 2020, a parent will be able to take up to 26 working weeks of unpaid parental leave, a further four week extension
  • The age of a qualifying child increases from 8 years to reaching the age of 12 years
  • Any parent who has already availed of their current entitlement of 18 weeks will be entitled to avail of a further eight weeks of parental leave.

The extension of unpaid parental leave comes alongside the proposed introduction of paid parental leave from November 2019.  The paid parental leave will initially be for up to two weeks of non-transferable leave per parent during the first year of the child’s life, extending to seven weeks by 2021. The Government expects up to 60,000 parents a year to benefit from paid parental leave. By May 2019, over 51,000 fathers had availed of paid paternity leave.
The combination of schemes and rules is somewhat confusing for both employers and employees.  Overall these change means that parental leave will increase from the current 18 weeks unpaid leave to a total of 33 weeks paid and unpaid leave by 2021, a significant increase of an additional 15 weeks per parent per child.  The complexity and differing rules that apply to the different entitlements is a worrying development and does not necessarily result in increased flexibility in how parents choose to manage their time off.