Having a baby can be an exciting time in life. However, when you add in work commitments and parental leave it can create some potential issues.
Employers must provide parental leave for eligible employees under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 (“PLEPA”).
It’s best practice for employers and employees to act with mutual trust and communication in the workplace, and parental leave is no exception. When it comes to employees applying for parental leave:
Employer's Paid Parental Leave Responsibilities
• Employers must respond within 7 days to an employee’s written notice to take paid parental leave, asking for more information if you need it.
• If you do not have all the required information, the employee has 14 days to provide the information you need.
• Within 21 days of receiving all the information the employer must either accept or decline the parental leave, and if not provide a reason. They also need to explain whether their position can be kept open or not.
• It’s a good idea to have a conversation well before parental leave starts around when the employee plans on returning to work. Have an option for them to return early, or to extend unpaid parental leave if they wish. Make sure it’s written down and agreed to by both parties. Within 21 days of their parental leave beginning, remind them in writing about the day their leave will end and their return date to work.
Employees' Paid Parental Leave Responsibilities
After announcing their pregnancy, employees need to:
• Provide written notice to their employer of the date they plan to take parental leave, including plans for extended unpaid leave.
• Tell their employer at least twenty-one days before the end of their parental leave, whether they will be returning to work.
The best solution is an open and honest discussion around leave plans and expectations. Having a child is a life changing experience, and when raising an infant the only constant is change. It’s ok to want to change the terms of your parental leave agreement, and either return to work early or extend your leave, but you need to communicate with your employer and give them as much notice as possible.
Making A Paid Parental Leave Complaint
If employers refuse parental leave or disadvantage an employee with their leave entitlements, the employee may have grounds for a complaint under PLEPA or the Employment Relations Act 2000.
An employee can make a complaint if their employer is:
• Making you start parental leave early, or transferring you to another job;
• Dismissing you because of your pregnancy;
• Not keeping your job open without good reason;
• Doing something that negatively impacts your parental leave or parental leave payments.
An employee must make their complaint to the employer directly in the first instance. If this does not fix the problem, an employee can make a complaint to the Employment Relations Authority which may refer the issue to mediation.
If you feel you have been wrongly denied or disadvantaged, you only have a short window to make your complaint. For both employers and employees, a parental leave complaint cannot be made after:
• 26 weeks from the date the matter of the complaint happened; or
• 26 weeks from the expected date of birth or date the employee became the primary care of the child under 6 years;
• 8 weeks after the end of any period of parental leave taken by the employee.
Our Employment Law team works with employers and employees to make sure everyone is treated fairly and with respect. If your employer or employee is not providing you with the information you need, is slow communicating, or you feel is trying to abuse the system, contact the Employment team at Godfreys Law.