The Carer’s Leave Act 2001, provides for the entitlement of an employee to avail of unpaid leave from his/her employment to enable him/her to personally provide full-time care and attention to a person who needs such care.
The minimum statutory entitlement is 13 weeks, and the maximum is 104 weeks in respect of any one care recipient.
The Act applies to any person -
- working under a contract of employment or apprenticeship
- employed through an employment agency, or
- holding office under, or in the service of the State (including Civil Servants), an officer or servant of a local authority, a harbour authority, health board or vocational education committee, or of the Defence Forces.
In the case of Agency Workers, the party who is liable to pay the wages (employment agency or client company) is the employer for the purposes of the Act.
In order to be eligible to apply for Carer's Leave an employee must
- have at least 12 months continuous service with the employer from whose employment the leave is taken, before commencement of the leave,
- intend to personally provide full-time care and attention to a person in need of such care and,
- actually, do so for the duration of the leave.
However, during such period of caregiving, the employee may
- attend an educational or training course, or take up voluntary or community work for up to 18.5 hours per week
- engage in limited self-employment in his/her own home*
- engage in employment outside the home for up to 18.5 hours per week, subject to approval of the Minister for Social Protection*
(*Note - the latter two above are also subject to an upper income limit as set out in Regulations made by the Minister for Social Protection.)
It should be noted also that during any period of absence in the above circumstances, adequate care for the relevant person must be arranged.
The decision as to whether the relevant person is in need of full-time care and attention will be made by a Deciding Officer or Appeals Officer of the Dept. of Social Protection based on information provided by the person's general medical practitioner and assessment by the Department's medical advisor.
Manner in which Carer's Leave may be Taken
The Act provides that the leave may be taken in one of the following ways:
- one continuous period of 104 weeks, or
- one or more periods, the total duration of which amounts to no more than 104 weeks.
The minimum statutory entitlement that may be taken in one period at the discretion of the employee is 13 weeks.
An employer may refuse, on reasonable grounds given to his/her employee in writing, to permit an employee to take Carer's Leave for any period of less than 13 weeks. However, an employer and employee may agree to arrangements for Carer's Leave on terms more favourable to the employee.
The Act prohibits an employer from penalising an employee on the grounds that he/she exercised or proposes to exercise his/her right to Carer's Leave.
Applying for Carer's Leave
An employee must give written notice to his/her employer of the intention to take Carer's Leave, not later than 6 weeks before he/she proposes to commence the leave.
The statement must contain the following details:
- the date on which he/she intends to commence the leave,
- the duration of the leave,
- the manner in which he/she proposes to take the leave,
- a statement that an application for a decision that the person to be cared for is a relevant person for the purposes of the Carer's Leave Act, 2001, has been made to the Department of Social Protection,
- the employee's signature and date.
Once an employee has given notice to his/her employer of the intention to take Carer's Leave -
- the employee must give the employer a copy of the decision from the Deciding Officer of the Department of Social Protection, that the person to be cared for is medically certified as requiring full-time care and attention,
- the employer and employee must then prepare a Confirmation Document, which must be prepared and signed no later than 2 weeks before the leave is due to begin, and must contain the following -
- the date on which the leave period will commence,
- the duration of the period of leave,
- signatures of both the employer and employee.
A copy of the Act may be viewed or downloaded here – Carer’s Leave Act, 2001