Online film and TV streaming service Netflix will now let parents (fathers and mothers) take as much maternity and parental leave as they want for the first year of a child’s life. Yes, unlimited leave!!
The aim is to allow employees to enjoy a flexible workplace and have confidence to balance the needs of their families without worrying about work or finances. It is also thought that by allowing employees to return to work when it suits them, they will perform better at work as they’re not worrying about issues at home and consequently they are more focused and dedicated at work as a result.
Netflix already have a very flexible time off policy whereby they allowed employees to decide how much vacation they want to take in a given year. This actually resulted in many workers not taking as much time off as they could have done as they feared what it might look like to the company and that they might not be regarded as being ambitious and hard-working.
It will remain to be seen exactly how this new maternity and parental leave policy will work in practice and whether mothers and fathers will avail of it to the greatest extent possible or whether they will feel that they ought to go back to work straight away. However, it is seen as a welcome recognition of gender equality in the workplace given that both mothers and fathers may avail of the unlimited parental leave.
This recent announcement may make you question – what maternity and parental Leave entitlements do I have here in Ireland?
The minimum entitlements in Ireland are much more favourable than in the United States generally. However, unlimited leave entitlements such as those offered to Netflix employees are unheard of.
I will briefly set out the rights which apply to maternity and parental Leave in Ireland below.
Maternity leave entitlements are governed by the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004. It extends to all female employees including casual workers regardless of their length of service. Female employees are entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave together with an additional 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave. Female employees’ entitlements to pay during the maternity leave will depend on their contract of employment. Some employers might continue to pay employees on maternity leave. However, if this is not provided for in your contract of employment, one may be able to apply for a maternity benefit from the Department of Social Protection.
Employees who are on maternity leave are entitled to leave for any public holidays that occur during the maternity leave including additional maternity leave. Time spent on maternity leave is regarded as time used to accumulate annual leave and public holiday entitlement.
A father is entitled to maternity leave if the mother dies within 40 weeks of the birth. The amount of leave permitted will depend on the actual date of the mother’s death.
Employees who avail of maternity leave are entitled to return to the same job with the same contract of employment after the maternity leave period has finished. If it is not reasonably practicable to return to the same job, they must return to a position which is on as favourable terms as their previous job.
The Parental Leave Act 1998 -2013 allows for up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave from work for men and women to care for their children. It usually applies to parents who are seeking the time off to care for their children up to the age of 8 years old but there are some exceptions such as where the child may have a disability.
The leave must be taken in one continuous block for 14 weeks or two separate blocks of at least 6 weeks. Some employers may be flexible and agree alternative arrangements with their employees. An employer may postpone leave where there is a large volume of work and it is in their business interests. They must give the employee a written reason for the postponement. However, they cannot continue to try and postpone the leave on an on-going basis.
Parental Leave must be taken for the purposes of looking after children. Employees should be aware that any abuse of this leave entitlement is deemed to be a disciplinary matter and could have consequences for the employees up to and including dismissal.
The employee is not entitled to pay from the employer or any social welfare payment while on parental leave. Time spent on parental leave can be used to accumulate one’s annual leave entitlement.
An employee is entitled to return to their old job after parental leave unless it is not reasonably practicable for an employer to allow them to return to their old job. However, like with maternity leave, they must return to no less favourable conditions as they had in their former position.
If you would like any more information about your leave entitlements generally, please do not hesitate to contact me on (01) 6797930 or email katie[at]brophysolicitors.ie and I will be happy to assist you.