Know Your Rights: Parental leave

Question

What is parental leave? Can both parents take it?

Answer (February 2018)

Each parent of an eligible child may take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave from work. Leave can be taken no later than the child’s eighth birthday. However, if your child has a disability or a long-term illness, you can take parental leave up to their 16th birthday. If you adopt a child between the ages of six and eight, you can take leave for that child up to two years after the date of the adoption order. (Your contract of employment may also provide for an extended age limit.)

You can take 18 weeks of leave per child in one continuous period or in two separate blocks of a minimum of six weeks. If you take it in two separate blocks, there must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the two periods of leave per child. However, if your employer agrees, you can separate parental leave into periods of days or even hours.

Taking parental leave does not affect your other employment rights. Apart from the loss of pay and pension contributions, your position remains as if no parental leave had been taken. This means, for example, that while on parental leave you will continue to accumulate your annual leave entitlement. While you are on parental leave, a public holiday that falls on a day when you would normally be working is added to your period of leave.

When you return to work after taking parental leave, you can ask for a change in your work pattern or working hours for a set period. Your employer must consider your request, but is not obliged to grant it.

Both parents have an equal entitlement to 18 weeks’ parental leave each. Unless you and your partner work for the same employer, this leave is non-transferable; you can only claim your own parental leave entitlement of up to 18 weeks per child. However, if you both work for the same employer and your employer agrees, you may transfer up to 14 weeks of your parental leave entitlement to each other.