While it’s a great benefit for employees, business owners will definitely find the newly introduced Parent’s Leave regulations to be a significant burden, both financially and logistically.
This will become more acute when the leave increases from six weeks to seven in 2021. Business owners will have a number of decisions to make in relation to parent’s leave and to take particular account of whether or not they top-up maternity, adoptive or paternity leave to ensure there is no gender discrimination or bias.
What is the Parental Leave and Benefit Act 2019?
The bill will make two weeks paid Parent’s Leave available to all new parents in employment (and self-employment) from 01 November 2019.
How much will be paid to parents?
Parents will be paid (by the state) with the amount to be confirmed, but likely to be in the order of €250 per week. There is no requirement on Employers to top-up this amount. The benefit is payable in addition to existing child related leave – maternity, paternity, adoptive and unpaid parental leave.
Who is eligible for Parent’s Leave?
The benefit applies to parents with at least one year of service with their employer whose child is born on or after 01 November 2019. The leave is non-transferable between parents. There is provision for adoption and for same-sex couples.
How does Parent’s Leave affect the employee’s rights?
Employers must treat employees on Parent’s Leave as if they are still in employment and taking of leave should not affect any of the employees’ rights and entitlements.
How long is the Parent’s Leave period?
In this initial phase of implementation, each parent is entitled to two weeks. The leave must be taken within the first year (52 weeks) of the child’s birth or date of placement if being adopted. The minimum period that may be taken is one week, so the option is for either 2 x 1 week periods or 1 x 2 week period).
If an employee wishes to take Parent’s Leave, they must inform their employer in writing as soon as is reasonable, but in any event, no later than four weeks prior to leave commencement. As an employer, you have no discretion in relation to timing of leave – the dates are the dates. The employee may withdraw the notice given and must then give a further four weeks’ notice. However, the employee may postpone the leave at will with no new notice period required. There are many other operational aspects covering complex situations including, inter alia:
- Early confinement
- Postponement due to illness
- Hospitalisation of the child
- Adoption placement dates
- Short or fixed-term contracts
Summary While the measure in itself will be widely welcomed by prospective parents, the implementation of the measures will cause challenges for small and medium-sized businesses. The complex nature of the legislation and its interface with other parental-type measures means employers will need carefully worded and robust policies and procedures. What can employers do to prepare for the new scheme? Employers should prepare appropriate policies and procedures to ensure that they are compliant and ready to deal with any request. They should also consider the nature of their policy on maternity and paternity leave. HR Duo advisers will be working with our clients to ensure they are up to date and ready.
November 7, 2019
By Florence Kenefick