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 increased from 18 to 22 weeks per child. From 1 September 2020, this entitlement increased 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 previous entitlement to eighteen weeks will be able to apply for the balance of the available 26 weeks.
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 26 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 26 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 26 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 26 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 their 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 26 weeks of parental leave to the other parent. In this situation, one parent may avail of 40 weeks and the other 12 weeks. If parents do not have the same employer, parental leave may not be transfered.
Using parental leave on alternating weeks to create an arrangement similar to job sharing
INTO has received a high volume of queries in relation to applying for a week-on, week-off pattern of parental leave, to create an arrangement similar to job sharing.
There are a number of issues which teachers and schools considering such an arrangement should be aware of before applying or approving parental leave in this pattern.
What is this arrangement?
The rules for parental leave are set out in circular 54/2019, chapter five. If a teacher has children under thirteen, they may have parental leave to take. This must be requested in minimum blocks of seven days.
Some teachers apply to take their parental leave every second week, creating an arrangement akin to undertaking a job share.
Further, some teachers have sought to take their parental leave on alternating weeks with a colleague who also has parental leave available, asking to be allocated to the same class as that colleague, on a week-on, week-off arrangement. The substitute who is covering for this pair of teachers may then be allocated to another single class, at the discretion of the Principal.
Why do teachers want to do it?
In a job share, a teacher’s hours are reduced by half and they will be paid at the job-sharing rate of pay for the full school year, 1 September to 31 August.
If a teacher is applying to use parental leave every second week, they are still a full-time employee and will receive their full-time rate of pay for any periods when not taking parental leave (i.e. during school closures and for the summer).
A teacher in a job share for the year will be off salary for the equivalent of twenty-six weeks. A teacher using parental leave every second week will be off salary for approximately twenty weeks (subject to the school calendar).
What do schools need to consider in relation to applications for this pattern of parental leave?
When a job share is approved, a fixed-term position may be filled for the duration of the job share, from 1 September to the following 31 August.
When a teacher is absent on parental leave, their absences will be filled by a substitute teacher. In this pattern, a substitute teacher will be required every second week.
If two teachers have paired up to request their parental leave on alternating weeks, two concurrent substitute vacancies are created, which – if the teachers have been meticulous with their parental leave applications – may provide a full year of substitute employment.
However, a fixed-term position is likely to be more attractive and more straightforward to fill, ensuring that pupils have one teacher consistently employed for the year.
Furthermore, the job share scheme clearly provides a framework for teachers and schools in areas like Croke Park hours, parent-teacher meetings, leave in lieu for attendance at in-service training, and posts of responsibility. No similar guidance exists for pairs of teachers availing of their parental leave.
Is a teacher entitled to take their leave in this pattern?
Parental Leave is a statutory entitlement, and an eligible teacher may apply for it in line with the rules set out in circular 54/2019.
However, an employer may limit the number of weeks of parental leave that will be approved – if a teacher has applied for parental leave for a period of more than six weeks, six weeks is the minimum that must be approved – and an employer may postpone the commencement of the leave by up to six months, if “granting the leave at that time would have a substantial adverse effect on the operation of the school.”
An employer is required to discuss any intended postponement of the leave with the teacher and must give the teacher at least four weeks’ notice of the Board’s decision.
For a parental leave application commencing in September, an employer could wait until the summer to make efforts to recruit a qualified substitute before making a final decision on a teacher’s parental leave application by mid-July.
If a teacher is applying for a job share, they should be notified whether it’s been approved by 1 March and will be able to plan for the year ahead on that basis.
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.