The Government has now published the General Scheme for the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill. This provides for paid parental leave benefit, to be used within the first 12 months of a child’s life or 12 months from the date of adoption.

Parental leave benefit would apply to eligible employees with at least one year’s service who fall within the definition of “relevant parent”. This includes:

  • the child’s mother or father
  • the child’s adoptive parents
  • the nominated adoptive parent (in the case of a same-sex married couples)
  • the parent of a donor-conceived child
  • the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the child’s relevant parent or adoptive parent.

The benefit would be paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection at the same rate as maternity and paternity benefit (currently €245 per week). It will be up to individual employers to decide whether they “top-up” the benefit for employees who earn more than this.

This new scheme will come into effect on 1 November 2019 (if the Bill becomes law). The Bill provides for the Minister to make regulations to set the duration of any paid parental leave. The Government intends the benefit to be paid for up to two weeks from 1 November, and then plans to increase it to seven weeks’ per parent by 2021.

These developments follow on from last month’s increase to unpaid parental leave entitlement (discussed in our previous post). They reflect a general trend across Europe towards increasing family leave entitlements and placing a greater focus on work-life balance as a means of addressing gender representation in the workplace.

In light of these changes, it is a good time for employers not only to consider whether they should top-up parental leave benefit, but also review their family leave policies more generally to ensure their business is in line with latest developments.

For more information on this or any other employment law matters in Ireland please contact the Lewis Silkin Ireland team.