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Parental leave: why the new entitlements coming in today have caused HR head-scratching

The two weeks of leave will be on top of the existing maternity and paternity schemes.

Image: Shutterstock/Tania Kolinko

LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS FOR new parents come into effect today following weeks of confusion among HR departments and employees. 

From today, new mothers and fathers will each be entitled to two weeks of ‘paid parent leave’ within the first year of their child being born at a rate of €245 per week – the same rate paid for existing maternity and paternity leave. 

These two weeks are in addition to the existing maternity and paternity leave, and unpaid parental leave entitlements already available to them. 

A bill was debated in the Dáil this month and reached final stages last week with it then signed into law by President Higgins.

However, the new scheme caused confusion among HR departments in some companies, as well as employees who were unsure of what exactly they were entitled to as a result of the existing maternity and paternity schemes. 

CIPD Ireland, the organisation which represents HR professionals called on the language and administrative structure of the scheme to be changed by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. 

Director of CIPD Ireland, Mary Connaughton said the process needs to be made easier for all parties involved. 

“It is still confusing because now we have three different types of leave that a mother and father can take, and getting clarity around those types of leave, like maternity leave and now this parents leave is still confusing,” she said. 

“They have streamlined how it will work in terms of parents leave working alongside paid maternity leave, but there is a lot of confusion around the language and things like the fact fathers have to take paternity leave within 26 weeks of the baby’s birth but have up to 52 weeks for parents leave.”

New dads

When a child is born a father can take two weeks paid paternity leave, which they must take within six months of the baby’s birth. 

Connaughton explained that after taking the paternity leave, they are, from today, also entitled to another two weeks within the first year of the baby’s birth, meaning they have four weeks in total. 

All four of these weeks are paid at a benefit rate of €245 per week from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Companies can then use their own discretion on whether they want to top this up in line with their employee’s normal wage. 

New mams

Before now, new mothers were entitled to 26 paid weeks of maternity leave. The can also add an additional 16 weeks to this leave which is unpaid and at their own discretion. 

Now following the initial 26 weeks payment under the maternity leave scheme, new mothers can avail of an additional two weeks paid parents leave at the end of this. 

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All 28 of these weeks are paid at a benefit rate of €245 per week from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Confusion

The CIPD is still calling for changes to the administrative process although it recognised that the department has “tightened up” the process with “reduced bureaucracy”. 

It raised concerns that some employees might miss out on what they are entitled to. 

“We need an online tool where somebody can go in and say something like ‘I’m about to go on paternity leave so what are my entitlements,” she said. 

“It’s not necessarily a form of calculator but a tool where people can work through and ask questions like ‘are you a mother/father’ and ‘when is the baby due’ which could then throw up their entitlements, helping both the employee and employers”. 

In addition to the above maternity and paternity leave, new parents are also entitled to up to 22 weeks unpaid parental leave each, which can be taken in one bloc or two split blocs, before their child reaches 12 years old.  

In response to a request for comment from TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said it will be running a media campaign and posting information on the Citizens Information and departmental websites. 

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