The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter, T.D., has introduced regulations extending parental leave from 14 weeks to 18 weeks (with effect from 8 March 2013).
The changes give effect to EU Council Directive 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 which implements a revised Framework Agreement on parental leave agreed by the European Social Partners.
Since 2006, unpaid parental leave can be taken in respect of a child up to 8 years of age (and other arrangements exist for adopted children and those with a disability). The Minister has said in introducing the regulations that it is important that we support parents of young children in the difficult balancing act of caring for a young family and working.
The Regulations also allow parents returning from back to work from parental leave to request a change in their working hours or pattern.
Employers must consider such a request but are not required to grant it.
The Regulation increases the amount of parental leave available to each parent per child from 14 weeks to 18 weeks; it provides that at least 4 weeks (i.e. the amount of extra leave provided for in the Directive) must be non-transferable between parents; and it provides that a parent returning to work has the right to ask for a change in work pattern for a set period – the employer is obliged to consider the request, but not obliged to concede it.
Parental leave is available for each child. Where an employee has more than one child, parental leave is limited to 18 weeks in a 12-month period. This can be longer if the employer agrees.
The Minister said: “I am firmly of the belief that supports such as Parental Leave are very important because they give mothers and fathers an equal role in the caring of children.
This is important on many levels, not least in breaking down stereotypes about child care. I also hope that it will encourage and enable working women to remain in the workforce after they have children”.
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