For comprehensive details of parental leave, refer to Chapter 5 of circular 54/2019.
What is parental leave?
Parental leave is unpaid leave available to teachers for the purpose of caring for children.
Changes to parental leave
With effect from 1 September 2019 the entitlement to unpaid parental leave has increased from 18 to 22 weeks per child. From 1 September 2020, this entitlement will increase again, to a total of 26 weeks per child.
The parent of an eligible child under thirteen (or sixteen if applicable) who has already availed of their entitlement to eighteen weeks will be able to apply for an additional four weeks from September 2019, and a further four weeks from September 2020.
A teacher who has completed at least 12 months of continuous employment with the same employer and is a natural parent, adoptive parent, adopting parent or in acting in loco parentis to a child is eligible to apply for parental leave. If a teacher has been compulsorily redeployed into a school but was employed for at least 12 months with their prior employer then they are considered eligible for parental leave.
A teacher is entitled to 22 weeks of parental leave per child. The parental leave can be used any time until the child turns 13, or 16 in the case of a child with a disability and/or long-term illness. Where a child is adopted between the ages of 11 and 13, parental leave may be used up to two years from the date of the adoption order.
Parental leave taken in respect of more than one child can only exceed 22 weeks in a twelve-month period with the employer’s consent, except in the case of multiple births (twins, triplets etc.) where a teacher has a statutory entitlement to more than 22 weeks of parental leave.
The minimum amount of parental leave that can be taken at one time is one week and the maximum amount is 22 weeks.
Parental leave must be taken in blocks of seven consecutive days which includes any weekends, public holidays etc. that fall during that time. In certain circumstances, where a child has medical problems that require regular attendance at clinics/appointments, parental leave may be granted in individual days. Certificates from the hospital or doctor in respect of these appointments must be provided to the school and kept on the teacher’s personnel file.
A teacher wishing to avail of parental leave should apply to his/her employer in writing, using the application form available at Appendix A of Chapter Five of circular 54/2019 (PDF). The application should be sent at least six weeks before the teacher proposes to take the parental leave.
Statutory annual leave and public holidays
Chapter 10 of circular 54/2019 sets out the arrangements in relation to statutory annual leave/public holiday entitlements. The arrangements can be summarised as follows:
- The leave year for teachers runs from 1 September to 31 August.
- Full-time employees have a statutory right to 20 days annual leave, and nine public holidays per year.
- A teacher’s entitlement to 20 days annual leave and nine public holidays is not affected by his/her absence on parental leave.
- Public holidays occurring while on parental leave will be dealt with by increasing the statutory 20 days annual leave entitlement.
- However, if in a leave year, a teacher on parental leave has been able to take the statutory minimum of 20 days annual leave, and any public holiday
entitlements due, either before and/or after his/her parental leave through scheduled school closures, then he/she has achieved his/her statutory
entitlements so no additional leave has accrued.
- If, in the leave year, a teacher’s parental leave means s/he won’t be able to take 20 days annual leave and nine public holidays through school closures, s/he may take any such days immediately before the commencement of parental leave.
- Finally, if a teacher wishes to carry any such days forward to the following leave year, then these days may be taken only when the school is closed.
In practical terms, the Department has cut leave in lieu to the absolute minimum in line with the requirements of the Organisation of Working Time Act.
The small number of days in lieu (if any) that may accrue to a teacher under these revised arrangements must be taken immediately prior to the commencement of parental leave, as they are effectively lost if carried forward to the next leave year.
Withdrawing from parental leave
At least four weeks before the parental leave starts, the employer and teacher should sign the confirmation document at Appendix B of Chapter Five of circular 54/2019. This document is legally binding. The teacher may revoke their application for parental leave any time until this document is signed. After the document is signed, the teacher’s parental leave may only be revoked with the agreement of all parties.
Postponement of parental leave by employer
The employer can postpone parental leave where granting it would have an adverse effect on the running of the school. Ordinarily, parental leave may only be postponed once.
Where an employer decides to postpone parental leave, the teacher should be consulted and informed at least four weeks before they were due to start parental leave. The teacher should be offered an alternative date within six months of when the original parental leave was due to start.
Transferring leave between parents
Where two parents of the same child work in the same school, it is possible to transfer 14 of the 22 weeks of parental leave to the other parent. This means that one parent can take 36 weeks of parental leave and the other can take eight, in respect of one child.
Application forms and additional information
Chapter 5 of Parental Leave Entitlements
If you have questions about parental leave, the INTO Query Line operates 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, on 01 804 7700.