The Parental Leave Acts of 1998 and 2006 entitle both parents to 14 weeks’ unpaid leave for each child born or adopted. The leave may be taken in one continuous period or in separate blocks of at least six weeks. With the agreement of the employer, parental leave may be taken in smaller periods. Employees must have one year’s continuous service to avail of the full 14 weeks’ parental leave. Parental leave can be taken in respect of children up to eight years of age, or older if agreed with the employer. The upper age limit can be extended where an adopted child is involved. In the case of a child with a disability leave may be taken up to 16 years of age. An extension may also be allowed where illness or other incapacity prevented the employee taking the leave within the normal period.
The parental leave can be suspended if the parent becomes ill while on parental leave. Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. However, if both parents work for the same employer and the employer agrees, the parental leave entitlement can be transferred from one parent to the other. The Acts also provide for limited paid leave (force majeure leave) to enable employees to deal with emergencies where a dependent family member is injured or ill. This includes same-sex couples.