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Carers Leave Act 2001

Purpose of the Act

The Carer's Leave Act, 2001 came into operation on 2 July 2001.

The main purpose of the Act is to provide for a new entitlement for an employee to avail of unpaid leave from his/her employment to enable him/her to personally provide full-time care and attention for a person who is in need of such care.

The period of leave to which an employee is entitled is subject to a maximum of 2 years in respect of any one care recipient (hereafter referred to as a 'relevant person'). The minimum statutory entitlement is 13 weeks.

Who is covered by the Act

In general, the Act applies to any person:

  • working under a contract of employment or apprenticeship;
  • employed through an employment agency; or
  • holding office under, or in the service of, the State (including a civil servant within the meaning of the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1956), and officer or servant of a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act, 1941, or of a harbour authority, health board or vocational education committee, and a member of the Garda Siochana or of the Defence Forces.

In the case of agency workers, the party who is liable to pay the wages (employment agency or client company) is the employer for the purposes of this Act.

Entitlement to Carer's Leave

An employee who wishes to avail of Carer's Leave must fulfil the following conditions:

1. Service requirement

An employee must have completed at least 12 months' continuous service with the employer from whose employment the leave is taken before the commencement of the leave. There is no hours threshold in the Act.

2. Provision of Full-Time Care and Attention

The employee must intend to take Carer's Leave for the purpose of personally providing full-time care and attention to a person (a "relevant person") who is in need of such and must actually do so for the duration of the leave.

Note: An employee is entitled to work for up to 15 hours per week while on Carer's Leave (See 'meaning of full-time care and attention' below).

3. Relevant Person - Need for Full-time Care and Attention

The relevant person (i.e. the person receiving full-time care and attention) must be deemed to be in need of full-time care and attention by a Deciding Officer (or Appeals Officer) of the Department of Social Protection. This decision will be based on information provided by the relevant person’s general medical practitioner and assessed by the Department’s medical advisor.

Meaning of 'Full-time care and attention'
According to Department of Social Protection, this means that a person being cared for must be so disabled as to require:

  • continuous supervision and frequent assistance throughout the day in connection with his/her normal personal needs, e.g. help to walk and get about, eat or drink, wash, bathe, dress etc., or;
  • continuous supervision in order to avoid danger to him/herself.

Note: The relevant person may attend a non-residential course of rehabilitation training or a nonresidential day care centre approved by the Minister for Health and Children. For further information on this contact:
Carer's Benefit Section of Social Welfare Services Office
Government Buildings
Ballinalee Road
Tel: 043 45211 or 01 7043000

The employee may:

  • attend an educational or training course or take up voluntary or community work for up to 10 hours per week; or
  • engage in limited self-employment in his/her own home or
  • engage in employment outside the home for up to 10 hours per week. This must be approved by the Minister for Social Protection.

During the employee's absence in the above circumstances, adequate care for the relevant person must be arranged.

The requirement to provide full-time care and attention will be assessed on an individual basis by the Department of Social Protection. It is not intended nor is it desirable, that an employee on Carer’s Leave would be expected to provide care on a 24 hour basis. In this regard, the above arrangements will be applied in a flexible manner by the Department of Social Protection, having due regard to both the needs of the employee providing the care and the person requiring the care (the relevant person).

The two criteria (at 2 and 3) above are also required to qualify for the parallel State payment of Carer's Benefit.

The two schemes, Carer's Leave and Carer's Benefit, are administered in tandem in respect of these criteria. Further information in relation to the Carer’s Benefit Scheme may be obtained from the Department of Social Protection.

Other Eligibility Criteria

  • An employee will not be entitled to Carer's Leave in respect of the care of an individual at a time when another employee is on Carer’s Leave for the purpose of providing full-time care and attention to the same relevant person.
  • An employee will generally not be permitted to be on Carer's Leave in respect of more than one relevant person at any one time. However, on one occasion only, an employee may commence leave in respect of a relevant person while already on leave in respect of another relevant person, where the two relevant persons reside together. In such circumstances, an overall total amount of Carer's Leave of 4 years (2 years in respect of each relevant person) will apply.
  • Before an employee can commence Carer's Leave, s/he must provide the employer with a copy of the decision of a Deciding Officer (or Appeals Officer) of the Department of Social Protection that the relevant person has been medically certified as being in need of full-time care and attention.

Note: It should be noted that entitlement to Carer's Leave is not conditional on entitlement to Carer's Benefit.