The Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 (“the 2019 Act”) has now been commenced and is effective from the 19th July last. Employers must now ensure that policies and procedures are up to date and in line with the new entitlements and must prepare for applications for additional parental leave immediately. The 2019 Act amends the Parental Leave Act 1998 (“the 1998 Act”) and provides for the extension of the period of unpaid parental leave from the current entitlement of 18 weeks to 22 weeks from the 1st September 2019 and to 26 weeks from the 1st September 2020. The 2019 Act also increases the age of the child in relation to whom parental leave is available from 8 to 12 years of age. Therefore, parents will now be able to avail of their extended entitlements up until the child in question turns 12 years old.
The 2019 Act also increases the relevant age for children who have been adopted. Previously, parents of children adopted between the age of six and eight years old could avail of the leave in respect of the child up to two years after the date of the adoption order. The 2019 Act now extends this time and provides that leave may be taken up to two years after the date of the adoption order for children who have been adopted between the ages of 10 and 12 years old.
Applications from parents to use this additional leave can be made as and from the 19th July last, allowing them to give the statutory six weeks notice to their employer in advance of the four weeks additional leave being available from 1st September next. The 2019 Act has not amended section 11 of the 1998 Act which provides for a postponement by the employer of parental leave in certain circumstances. The section sets out a variety of circumstances where the employer may postpone a request which has been received and the request can be postponed for up to 6 months , including circumstances where an employer is satisfied that the taking of parental leave may have a substantial adverse affect on the operation of his or her business, profession or occupation by reason of the number of employees whose period of parental leave will fall within the period specified.