On April 1, most of the provisions of Ireland’s Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021 (the 2021 act) took effect. The 2021 act entitles working parents to an additional three weeks parent’s leave for each parent and rectifies an anomaly in the law that previously left same-sex couples unable to take adoptive leave. We have set out below the main changes.
Parent’s Leave and Benefit
The concept of parent’s leave was first introduced by the Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019 (the 2019 act), which entitled the “relevant parent” of a child to a two-week period of non-transferable leave to be taken within the first year of the child’s life or placement with the child’s adoptive family. Parent’s leave is separate and distinct from parental leave or other types of family leave.
The 2021 act extends parent’s leave by three weeks (i.e. to a total of five weeks) and increases the period within which such leave can be taken to two years from the child’s birth or adoption. This leave can either be taken together or as separate weeks and is to be paid (Parent’s Benefit) by the state at the standard benefit rate of 245 euros (approximately US$295) per week, subject to eligibility. There is no obligation on employer’s to “top-up” the parent’s leave benefit.
These new provisions apply retrospectively so that parents who have already taken two weeks’ parent’s leave following the 2019 act but prior to the enactment of the 2021 act also have an entitlement to benefit from the additional three weeks leave.
The 2021 act brings Ireland closer to the provisions of the EU’s Work Life Balance Directive, which requires all member states to implement two months paid, non-transferable parent’s leave by August 2022. Therefore, it is expected that parent’s leave will be extended again to bring Ireland in line with the requirements of the directive.
For more information on parent’s leave and parental leave, please see our previous article.
Prior to the 2021 act, adoptive leave was only available to either an employed adoptive mother or a single adopting father. Consequently, same-sex couples were unable to use this type of leave. The 2021 act allows adoptive couples to choose which parent may avail of adoptive leave, enabling same-sex couples take adoptive leave and removing the assumption that the woman is the primary caregiver in the family. This welcome step represents a further effort to provide for gender equality in the workplace.
Aibhe Dennehy is an attorney and Aimee Carroll is a trainee solicitor with William Fry in Dublin. © 2021 William Fry. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission of Lexology.