New Paid Parental Leave and Benefit available from November 2019

25 April 2019

A General Scheme of the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 was published by the Government on 23 April 2019. From November 2019, all new parents in employment or self-employment will be able to avail of a new parental leave scheme offering two week’s leave and benefit. The Minister for Justice and Equality has stated that the aim of the scheme is to provide an important practical support for working parents and an opportunity to spend more time with their child in its first year of development.

The Parental Leave Act 1998, as amended by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006 currently allows parents to take parental leave from employment for a total of 18 working weeks for each child. Employees are not entitled to pay from their employer while on parental leave nor are they entitled to any social welfare payment equivalent to maternity benefit or adoptive benefit.

The proposed legislation provides for paid parental leave for each parent of a child under one, whether employed or self-employed. The leave will initially be set at two weeks, increasing on a phased basis over the next three years with a Government commitment to increase the leave by 2021 to 7 weeks paid parental leave per parent. The leave can be taken within 52 weeks of the birth of the child or in the case of adoption, from the date of placement of the child. It is estimated that up to 60,000 parents could benefit from the scheme in a full year.

Under this new scheme, both parents will have access to two weeks each for children born from November 2019. The benefit will be paid at the same rate as maternity benefit – currently €245 per week.
The Bill also proposes to address a lacuna in the law, which prevents a male same-sex couple from receiving adoptive leave and benefit. The Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration has stated that this is further progress towards ensuring equality for all families.

The Government has advised that arrangements are underway to ensure the legislation is in place in advance of November 2019 for the operation of the scheme.

It is important for employers to be aware that it is the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that will make the payment of the benefit. It will be up to individual employers to decide if they will provide a ‘top-up’ payment to the salary level of employees. We would recommend that employers commence a review of their records of employees on parental leave and it would be prudent for employers to review their contracts of employment and any parental leave policy in place as they may require updating to ensure compliance once the legislation has been enacted.

For further information on this topic please contact: Maura Connolly, Partner and Head of Employment and Employee Benefits Group or Laura Feely, Solicitor, Employment and Employee Benefits Group, lfeely@efc.ie

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