Parent’s Leave and Benefit will be extended from 2 weeks for each parent to 5 weeks as announced in Budget 2021. This extension will be made available retrospectively to parents in respect of children born or adopted on or after 1st November 2019. The period during which this leave can be taken will be extended from 12 to 24 months so it can be taken up to a child's second birthday or within two years following adoption. Parents will therefore not lose out on their entitlement to these extra weeks.
There is a necessary lead-in time following the announcement of this extension to facilitate its implementation. Firstly, legislative change is required by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth which has responsibility for parents leave policy. This legislation needs to be carefully prepared and drafted before being brought through the Oireachtas, given that it extends a statutory leave entitlement that, in addition to benefitting workers, has implications for employers.
It will also be necessary for parallel amendments to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) to be drafted and brought through the Oireachtas to provide the legislative basis for the extended payment of benefit.
In addition, significant changes are required to the Department's systems to administer this extension, including the provision of retrospective entitlement. This work needs to be undertaken in such a way that is does not compromise existing supports in an environment where there are unprecedented levels of demand on the Department’s services due to Covid-19.
The extra weeks of leave will be made available as soon as the necessary legislation which is being drafted by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is enacted.
Once the new application and payment system goes live in April, my Department will then process and issue benefit payments - to include backdated payment of benefit as appropriate - in respect of Parents Leave taken from the date of enactment.
I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.