We introduced a law to extend unpaid parental leave for working parents. It comes into force in 1st September 2019.

Working parents live incredibly busy lives – constantly trying to balance the needs of their children with making ends meet.

Our new law is about improving work-life balance while providing job protection for working parents.

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 extends unpaid parental leave for parents from four months (18 working weeks) to six months (26 weeks).

It also extends the age of a qualifying child from eight to 12 years. The new entitlements came into force on 1st  September 2019.

The new leave entitlements will be phased in in two stages – four weeks in September 2019 and a further four weeks in September 2020.

Childcare costs as barrier

Childcare costs can prove a huge barrier for women to return to the workforce – in some cases, women return simply to keep their job rather than gaining any extra income.

This reform is about improving work-life balance for parents, encouraging women to remain in the workforce and helping reduce childcare costs.

For parents with pre-school children in particular, unpaid parental leave might often be a more economical alternative to paying for formal childcare.

Here’s how it will work

Parents can spread the 6 months (26 weeks) of unpaid work leave out over the years until their children reach the age of 12.

This time can be used to cover mid-terms or school summer holidays – or simply to maximise parents’ time with their children in their early years.

If parents have already taken all of their existing parental leave, they will be allowed an extra 8 weeks under our law – once they still have a qualifying child.

Why it’s a win-win

Increasing unpaid leave is a win-win for working parents, for employers and for children.

Extra leave helps with preventing absenteeism – when children are sick or have appointments.

It also helps employers to hold on to key employees – evidence suggests that many working mothers in particular don’t return to work after having children because formal childcare is too costly.

Of course, children themselves benefit greatly from additional time spent with their parents in their early years in particular.

And parents who are less stressed with the demands of work and family life are able to devote more quality time to raising their children.

We also want to see increased paid parental leave

Unpaid leave is not a substitute for paid parental leave, which the Social Democrats fully support up until 12 months

Instead, it is a complimentary form of parental leave that offers parents additional flexibility in the work-life balance.

The Social Democrats are committed to the introduction of paid parental leave, and proposed such a move in each of our Alternative Budget proposals since 2016.

Under Dáil rules, opposition parties are prevented from proposing Bills where there is a cost to the State. This is why we have focused on unpaid parental leave in this Bill.

Ireland is well behind other countries when it comes to parental leave. Many countries allow parents four sets of leave – maternity, paternity, parental, and childcare/carers. According to the European Commission, the average duration of combined maternity and parental leave among Member States is 97.8 weeks. In Ireland this is only 60.

Frequently Asked Questions

Press Release Updates

14th May 2019 – Up to half a million parents stand to benefit from #SocDems Bill extending parental leave 

7th May 2019 – Bill to increase leave for working parents to become law in weeks

13th June 2018 – Welcome for Dáil passage of our Bill to extend unpaid leave

12th June 2018 – SocDems’ bill to increase unpaid parental leave goes to final stage in Dáil

8th February 2018 – Social Democrats introduce bill to increase parental leave to six months

Jennifer Whitmore Opinion: Average combined maternity and parental leave is 98 weeks in EU countries – in Ireland it’s 60

Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019

Watch: Our plans to improve work-life balance

Working parents live incredibly busy lives. Our proposals seek to help improve work-life balance by increasing the amount of unpaid parental leave available to parents.