Which employees are eligible?
The following circumstances will entitle an employee to parental leave under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987:
- Where a female employee is having a baby
- The spouse/partner of an employee is having a baby
- Where two spouses/partners assume the care of a child under six years they intend to jointly adopt. They can nominate which of them is primarily eligible for the parental leave.
- An employee who assumes care of a child they intend to adopt alone.
To become eligible for parental leave, an employee must have:
Worked for the same employer for an average of at least 10 hours a week, including at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month in the six or 12 months immediately before the baby’s expected due date or the date they assume the care of a child they intend to adopt.
There are different entitlements available to employees depending on whether they meet the 12 or six month criteria.
Some employees may have worked for the same employer for more than 12 months but have an inconsistent work pattern and do not meet the average hours of work criteria over the 12 months. In this case, they can also calculate their hours of work over six months as they may still be eligible for parental leave under the six month criteria.
For further information on the different entitlements available to employees and their spouses/partners, see the summary of paid and unpaid leave entitlements.
How often can an employee take parental leave?
An employee can take parental leave multiple times, as long as six months elapse between the date they returned to work and the expected date of birth of the subsequent child. They must also meet the eligibility requirements each time.
Additional parental leave provisions in employment agreements
Some employment agreements include additional parental leave or parental leave payment provisions. These will be unique to your workplace and are additional to the parental leave and payment provided under the law. These provisions are lawful if the employment agreement has adequate arrangements for the following:
- Who can take parental leave
- How long the various types of leave last
- How well the employee’s job is protected during and after parental leave
- What obligations, if any, the employer has to pay the employee during the leave
- What procedures the employee has to follow.
Employees can use their employment agreement provisions if they are as favourable or more favourable as those under the law. The employment agreement cannot change an employee’s eligibility for the government’s parental leave and parental leave payments, and they can receive additional parental leave payments through their employment agreement.
If you do have such provisions in employment agreements in your workplace and have any difficulty interpreting how they apply in conjunction with the law, you can you can check our FAQ Knowledgebase, or phone the Department of Labour on 0800 20 90 20 during business hours.