There are a range of family leave options available to working parents, many of which have been extended in the recent past.
The Parental Leave Act 1998 entitles parents to unpaid leave to look after their children. This leave is available to a relevant parent, who is defined as a parent, adoptive parent or person acting in loco parentis.
The Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 introduced a significant extension to the existing parental leave entitlements, raising the age of the child for whom parental leave may be taken from eight years to twelve. It also extended the parental leave entitlement by 8 weeks, on a phased basis. The last of these increases came into effect on 1 September 2020 and parents are now entitled to 26 weeks leave in total.
In addition, the Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019 introduced two weeks of paid parent's leave for each relevant parent, as defined in the legislation, to be taken in the first year after the birth or adoptive placement of a child. The definition of relevant parent under the Act includes a parent of the child and the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of a parent of the child.
Following the commencement of the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021 on 1 April 2021, an additional three weeks of paid parent's leave has been granted to each relevant parent, and the period in which the leave can be taken has been extended to the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child.
Section 6 of the Carer's Leave Act 2001 provides that employees with at least one year's continuous service are entitled to take up to 104 weeks of carer's leave to enable them to provide full-time care and attention to a person who is in need of such care.
Carer's Leave is unpaid but an employee may also qualify for Carer's Benefit or Carer's Allowance, the payment of which is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection.
There are no plans to amend any of the family leave provisions at present.
Matters in relation to a payment of benefit are under the remit of the Minister for Social Protection.