EMPLOYER ACTION CODE: MONITOR

The Irish government recently released its General Scheme of the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019. If enacted according to the current timetable, the bill would introduce Ireland’s first provision for paid parental leave in November 2019, payable by social security at the same rate as applies to maternity and paternity leave. Under current legislation, new and adoptive parents are entitled to unpaid leave for 18 weeks.

KEY DETAILS

The bill’s main provisions, which would be effective November 1, 2019, are as follows:

  • Employees with at least one year of service would be entitled to two weeks of parental leave during the 52-week period following the birth or adoption of a child but payable after maternity, adoption or paternity leave benefits end. The leave could be taken as single block or in separate weekly increments.
  • A parental leave allowance would be payable by social security at the same flat rate as currently applies to maternity/adoption and paternity leave (EUR 245 per week).
  • Each “relevant parent” of the child (including married couples, civil partnerships and co-habitants of the same or different gender) would be entitled to parental leave, but entitlement would be nontransferable and unaffected by the number of children born or adopted.
  • Employees would be required to notify their employers at least four weeks prior to the start of leave. During leave, the employee would be treated as in active employment but protected from termination.

EMPLOYER IMPLICATIONS

Ireland is one of only six European Union member states where workers are not entitled to any form of paid parental leave. While the bill has not yet been introduced to parliament for review and approval, the government currently appears intent on fast-tracking its implementation before the end of the year. The government has indicated that its longer-term intent is to increase the leave to seven weeks. Concurrently, separate legislation — the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 — which is slowly working its way through parliament, would increase the entitlement to unpaid parental leave under labor law from 18 to 26 weeks. In view of both of these developments, employers should both continue to monitor the situation as well as consider how they might adapt their current paid leave programs. Among companies surveyed by Willis Towers Watson, only 5% report providing paid parental leave in excess of statutory requirements.