Do you think a request for extra time off would impact your career? Here, Caroline McEnery of The HR Suite shares the professional way to get the family time you deserve.

Parental Leave allows you, as a parent, to take unpaid leave from your employment to take care of your children. If you are a guardian or have legal responsibility of a child you are also eligible for this leave. The aim of Parental Leave is to help families, such as yours, by allowing you to spend more time caring for your children and therefore giving you the opportunity to enjoy a better work-life balance.

Up until recently, workers in Ireland were entitled to take 18 weeks unpaid leave to allow them to take care of a child up to the age of eight years old. However, on the 13 June 2018, The Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 was passed by the Dáil, which has increased the allowance to 26 weeks unpaid leave that you can take up until your child turns 12 years old. This new bill will come into effect shortly but is not yet in place.

But the amount of time entitled to an employee or how it is allocated isn’t what is holding parents back from taking relief from work to be at home.

In a recent survey carried out by PWC of women worldwide the opinion is that 37 per cent of new mothers said they did not take the full maternity/ parental/adoption leave they were permitted because of career pressure, feeling this would undermine their standing at work. The truth is that some women are afraid of the negative effect that taking parental leave can have on their pay and their career path. 

Men also have a right to take parental leave but again it is a common belief that career progression may be effected if they choose to take it.

Largely, however, employers are switching on to the idea that a family friendly working environment leads to happy, productive employees. There are a number of ways employers can make it be known that they are in favour of promoting a healthy work-life balance. It is important that mothers or fathers taking leave are supported during that time, and that includes factors like keeping the employee up to date with any changes in the organisation and making sure
the person in question is not faced with an excessive workload during this time.

If you are facing challenges due to taking time off for parental leave don’t be afraid to speak to your manager about it. Let them know what the issue is, whether it is a lack of support from colleagues or a heavy workload – the sooner that you address the problems, the easier they will be to address.

Our advice? Don’t be nervous about putting your request forward for parental leave. This a legal entitlement and many employees have taken it before you in many other businesses. Don’t forget you are entitled to return to work in the same job you held immediately prior to your Parental Leave and with the same terms and conditions or no less favourable than those you held before. Any improvement in terms and conditions that came about during your absence will also have to be given to you.

If you are an employer and require advice on the above or other HR related issues, please contact our office on 066 7102887 to discuss your requirements or visit us at The HR Suite here.

* Caroline McEnery is the Managing Director of The HR Suite and HR and Employment Law Expert. Caroline is a former member of the Low Pay Commission and is also an adjudicator in the Work Place Relations Commission.