From 8th March 2013 parental leave increased from 14 to 18 weeks. The leave is unpaid and may be taken for each child born or adopted. The leave may be taken in one continuous period or in separate blocks of at least six weeks. With the agreement of the employer, parental leave may be taken in smaller periods.
Employees must have one year’s continuous service to avail of the full 18 weeks’ parental leave. Parental leave can be taken in respect of children up to eight years of age, or older if agreed with the employer. The upper age limit can be extended where an adopted child is involved. In the case of a child with a disability, leave may be taken up to 16 years of age. An extension may also be allowed where illness or other incapacity prevented the employee taking the leave within the normal period.
The parental leave can be suspended if the parent becomes ill while on parental leave. Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. However, if both parents work for the same employer and the employer agrees, the parental leave entitlement can be transferred from one parent to the other, except for one month’s entitlement which, is non-transferable between parents. The new regulations also give the right of the parent to request flexible working arrangements upon return from leave.