There are many different types of leave to which your employees may be entitled. These are separated into two categories:
- Statutory rights: Leave entitlements that employees are given under law (for example annual leave).
- Contractual rights: Leave entitlements that employees may be given in their contract of employment with you (for example study leave).
Employees are entitled to annual leave under legislation called the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. An employee who has worked 1,365 hours in a year is entitled to four weeks annual leave. It is up to you as the employer to keep a record of what holidays have been taken. If there is a dispute, it is your responsibility to prove that holidays have been taken (rather than the employees’ responsibility to prove that they haven’t been taken).
This area is also governed by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. There are currently nine public holidays in Ireland. Employees are entitled to a paid day off on a public holiday OR a paid day off within a month of that day OR an additional day of annual leave OR an additional day’s pay.
Women are entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave. They are also entitled to 16 weeks of additional unpaid leave. The leave must begin at least two weeks before the baby is due.
Parental Leave is 18 weeks long. It can be taken by employees with one year’s continuous service and must be taken before their child is eight years old. The employee has the option of splitting up the leave into two separate periods of at least six weeks each. Alternatively, you and your employee can agree a combination of days and hours.
Force Majeure Leave
This is emergency leave that employees can take for urgent family reasons. This can be taken for their child, spouse, sibling, parent or grandparent. The immediate presence of the employee with their family member must be necessary. This leave is for unforeseen emergencies. For example, a father could take Force Majeure leave to take his child to hospital, after she became unexpectedly ill. However, he cannot take Force Majeure leave to accompany her to an appointment in the hospital the next week as this is something that can be planned for.
An employee cannot take more than three days of Force Majeure leave in 12 months. They cannot take more than five days in 36 months.
The employee must give written notice of the leave and the reason for it as soon as possible.
There is no requirement for you to pay for sick leave unless you say so in your contract of employment. Your contract of employment should clearly state your policy regarding sick leave. If you do not pay for their sick leave, the employee will be entitled to Illness Benefit from the Department of Social Protection provided they have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions. Illness Benefit is not paid for the first six days of illness.
Study Leave/Career break
You should have a clear policy in relation to these types of leave. More importantly, you should stick to your policy!
There is the danger of “custom and practice” getting you into trouble. For example, you don’t give an entitlement to study leave in your contract of employment but you have allowed it for a few employees. Another employee requests study leave but you don’t want to give it to him for your own reasons. You don’t have to allow the study leave under the contract of employment but he could raise the argument that he is being treated unfairly because of your “custom and practice” of allowing study leave.
The above is a non-exhaustive list of the types of leave to which your employees might be entitled. If you have any questions regarding leave entitlements, contact our employment solicitor, Helen Coughlan on 045 431542.