Unpaid parental leave to increase to 26 weeks

Bill to be passed by summer will allow parents of children up to 12 an extra eight weeks

Ireland currently offers one of the lowest levels of parental leave in the EU. Photograph: iStock

Ireland currently offers one of the lowest levels of parental leave in the EU. Photograph: iStock

 

Legislation to increase unpaid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks is expected to be enacted before the summer.

It will be implemented on a phased basis with an extra four weeks in the first year after the Act passes and the second four weeks in year two.

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill, initiated by Social Democrats TDs Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy, is currently before the Seanad, where final amendments are expected to be debated within the next two weeks.

The qualifying age of children has also been extended from eight to 12 for the parental leave, which matches EU proposals.

It will mean that parents who have already taken some or all of the current 18 weeks’ leave and who have children up to 12 years of age will be eligible to take the extra eight weeks.

The legislation was introduced in April 2017 and first debated in the Dáil in April 2018 and passed in June last year.

Amendments accepted

Fianna Fáil introduced the Bill in the Seanad in November last year for the Social Democrats, who have no Senators, and amendments introduced by Labour were accepted by the Government in February.

Further technical amendments will be introduced by the Government that will permit parents to take the extra leave, if they had not already taken the current allowable 18 weeks’ leave before their child turned eight.

The legislation will have to be returned to the Dáil to pass the additional amendments before it is enacted by the summer recess.

The original Parental Leave Act passed in 1998 provided 14 weeks of leave for parents of children up to the age of five. In 2006 it was extended to parents of children up to eight years of age, and in 2013 regulations were introduced to extend the leave from 14 to 18 weeks.

Ireland currently offers one of the lowest levels of parental leave in the EU.