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What You Should Know

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Under the Adoptive Leave Acts, 1995 – 2005, female employees and, in certain circumstances, male employees are entitled to certain time off when adopting a child.

Eligibility and Entitlement

Adoptive leave is available to -

  • an employed adopting mother: that is, any female who is adopting a child of whom she is not the natural mother;
  • a sole male adopter: that is, a male employee who is adopting a child on his own ;
  • an employed adopting father is also entitled to certain leave in circumstances where the adopting mother has died before or during the period of adoptive leave or additional adoptive leave.

An adopting mother or a sole male adopter who is in employment is entitled to the following:

(a) a minimum of 24 consecutive weeks of adoptive leave from work, beginning on the day of placement of the child;
(b) up to 16 weeks of additional adoptive leave.

In the majority of cases, it is possible to receive a Social Welfare payment for the initial 24 week period of adoptive leave.

Annual Leave and Public Holidays

Employees on adoptive leave are entitled to be credited for any public holiday which occurs during their leave. This means that they must be given either an extra day's pay, or a set day off within a month, or an extra day's annual leave for any public holiday which occurred during their leave.

Absences on adoptive leave do not breach continuity of employment, and qualifies as reckonable service for the purposes of redundancy agreements and payments.

Notification requirements

  1. An employee must give adequate notice, in writing, to her/his employer of her/his intention to take adoptive leave. The minimum advance notification is 4 weeks before the expected placement of the child.
  2. An employee must inform her/his employer, in writing, at least 4 weeks beforehand of her/his intention to take additional adoptive leave.
  3. An employee must inform her/his employer, in writing, at least 4 weeks beforehand of the date on which she/he intends to return to work after adoptive leave or additional adoptive leave.
  4. An employee who is taking adoptive leave must provide her/his employer with a certificate of placement. This certificate, which may be obtained from the Health Service Executive or adoption society which arranged the adoption, must be given to the employer as soon as reasonably practicable, but no later than 4 weeks after the placement date.
  5. In the event of a foreign adoption, the employee must provide her/his employer with a copy of the declaration of eligibility or suitability before beginning adoptive leave or additional adoptive leave (whichever is the earlier).

Information regarding Adoptive Benefits may be obtained from the Department of Social Protection.

A copy of the primary Act may be viewed here – Adoptive Leave Act, 1995.

The Carer’s LeaveCarers Hands Act 2001, provides for the entitlement of an employee to avail of unpaid leave from his/her employment to enable him/her to personally provide full-time care and attention to a person who needs such care.

The minimum statutory entitlement is 13 weeks, and the maximum is 104 weeks in respect of any one care recipient.

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 Civil Servants), an officer or servant of a local authority, a harbour authority, health board or vocational education committee, 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 the Act. 

In order to be eligible to apply for Carer's Leave an employee must

  • have at least 12 months continuous service with the employer from whose employment the leave is taken, before commencement of the leave, 
  • intend to personally provide full-time care and attention to a person in need of such care and,
  • actually do so for the duration of the leave.

However, during such period of care-giving, the employee may

  • attend an educational or training course, or take up voluntary or community work for up to 15 hours per week
  • engage in limited self-employment in his/her own home, *
  • engage in employment outside the home for up to 15 hours per week, subject to approval of the Minster for Social Protection. *

(Note - the latter two above are also subject to an upper income limit as set out in Regulations made by the Minister for Social Protection.)

It should be noted also that during any period of absence in the above circumstances, adequate care for the relevant person must be arranged.

The decision as to whether the relevant person is in need of full-time care and attention will be made by a Deciding Officer or Appeals Officer of the Dept. of Social Protection based on information provided by the person's general medical practitioner and assessment by the Department's medical advisor.

Manner in which Carer's Leave may be Taken

The Act provides that the leave may be taken in one of the following ways:

  • one continuous period of 104 weeks, or
  • one or more periods, the total duration of which amounts to no more than 104 weeks.

The minimum statutory entitlement that may be taken in one period at the discretion of the employee is 13 weeks.

An employer may refuse, on reasonable grounds given to his/her employee in writing, to permit an employee to take Carer's Leave for any period of less than 13 weeks. However, an employer and employee may agree to arrangements for Carer's Leave on terms more favourable to the employee.

The Act prohibits an employer from penalising an employee on the grounds that he/she exercised or proposes to exercise his/her right to Carer's Leave.

Applying for Carer's Leave

An employee must give written notice to his/her employer of the intention to take Carer's Leave, not later than 6 weeks before he/she proposes to commence the leave.

The statement must contain the following details:

  • the date on which he/she intends to commence the leave,
  • the duration of the leave,
  • the manner in which he/she proposes to take the leave,
  • a statement that an application for a decision that the person to be cared for is a relevant person for the purposes of the Carer's Leave Act, 2001, has been made to the Department of Social Protection,
  • the employee's signature and date.

Once an employee has given notice to his/her employer of the intention to take Carer's Leave -

  • the employee must give the employer a copy of the decision from the Deciding Officer of the Department of Social Protection, that the person to be cared for is medically certified as requiring full-time care and attention,
  • the employer and employee must then prepare a Confirmation Document, which must be prepared and signed no later than 2 weeks before the leave is due to begin, and must contain the following -
    • the date on which the leave period will commence,
    • the duration of the period of leave,
    • signatures of both the employer and employee.

The relevant Application Form may be obtained on the Department of Social Protection's website HERE.

A copy of the Act may be viewed or downloaded here – Carer’s Leave Act, 2001


Adult _ baby handsEmployees (including casual workers) who become pregnant are entitled to Maternity Leave, regardless of how long they have been working for the organisation or the number of hours worked per week. The entitlement to leave is enshrined in the Maternity Protection Act, 1994 and the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act, 2004. The current entitlement is to 26 weeks’ maternity leave together with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave.

Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 at least 2 weeks have to be taken before the end of the week of your baby's expected birth and at least 4 weeks after.

Information regarding Maternity Benefits may be obtained from the Department of Social Protection.

Copies of the Acts may be viewed or downloaded here – Maternity Protection Act, 1994 and Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act, 2004.

The Parental Leave Act, 1998 (as amended by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006) entitles each parent to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave. The leave must be taken before the child is 8 years of age, or 16 years of age in the case of children with disabilities or a long-term illness. This leave is non-transferable between the parents, except where both parents work for the same employer. However, this depends on the agreement of the employer.

The Act also provides for limited paid leave (force majeure leave) to enable employees to deal with family emergencies resulting from injury or illness of a family member, up to a maximum of 3 days in any 12 consecutive months or 5 days in any 36 consecutive months.

In general, an employee must have at least one year's continuous service with the employer before he/she is entitled to take parental leave. However, where the child is nearing 8 (or 16 in the case of a child with a disability), and the parent has more than 3 months but less than one year's service with the employer, he/she will be entitled to pro rata parental leave, i.e. one week's leave for every month of continuous employment completed when the leave begins.

A copy of the primary Act may be viewed or downloaded here – Parental Leave Act, 1998

The Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill 2016 has been passed by the Dáil and includes certain amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and to records to be kept and retained for the purposes of the Workplace Relations Act and prosecutions for breaches of same. The legislation will commence on 1 September 2016. It will provide statutory paternity leave and benefit for fathers and bring Ireland in line with many other EU countries. The leave is intended to encourage and promote a more equitable division of parental responsibilities in the workplace. Announcing the introduction of paternity leave, the government also referred to the possibility of a further 2 weeks' shared parental leave to be introduced in the next Budget.


A relevant parent will be entitled to two continuous weeks' paid leave in respect of births from September 2016. Payment will be at the rate of €230 per week, subject to a person having the appropriate PRSI contributions. This is the same as the current rate of maternity benefit. Similar to maternity leave, employers can top up paternity benefit if they want. It should be noted that where employers make a top up to female employees, they should ensure they do not discriminate against male employees in relation to a top up of paternity benefit.

Applicants for Paternity Leave:  

The leave is available to all fathers, including self-employed, same sex couples and those adopting. The definition of relevant parent is set out in the legislation and "relevant parent" is defined as the father of the child, the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the mother. In most family circumstances it will be the father. The leave applies to only one person, except in the case of adoption, whereby a biological father may have already taken paternity leave. In such a case the legislation allows the subsequent adopting father to also take leave. If the baby dies or is stillborn, the entitlement to paternity leave continues and if one parent dies then the other parent inherits whatever paternity leave hasn’t been taken.

Relevant time for taking the leave:  

The leave can be taken at any time in the 26 weeks' following the birth of the child (or placement in the case of adoption). 4 weeks' notice is required before the leave may be taken however there is provision for shorter notice. The legislation allows for the postponement of leave in certain circumstances, such as the sickness of a relevant parent and hospitalisation of the child.

Penalisation for taking Paternity Leave:   

The legislation contains protections from penalisation for taking paternity leave and preservation of employment rights while on paternity leave. Similar to the maternity legislation, the legislation contains provisions such as the voidance of termination/notice of termination of a relevant parent while he/she is on paternity leave or the suspension of an employee while on leave.

Record Keeping (Offences):    

Under Section 17 (1) of the legislation an employer shall make a record of the paternity leave of their employees indicating the period of employment for each employee and the dates and times in respect of which each employee was on paternity leave and under Section 17(2) this record shall be retained for 8 years. A contravention of Section 17 (1) or (2) is an offence, proceedings for which may be brought and prosecuted by the Workplace Relations Commission (proceedings to be commenced within 12 months from the date of the offence) and shall be liable on summary conviction to a class B Fine (currently €4,000).

Complaints to WRC:     

Any dispute regarding paternity leave may be referred to an Adjudication Officer of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or on appeal to the Labour Court under Section 41 or 44 of the 2015 Act. 

A copy of the Act may be viewed or downloaded HERE.                      

Information in relation to Paternity Benefit, relevant rules and conditions, and how to apply are available on the Department of Social Protection website at https://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Paternity-Benefit.aspx  


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