Carer’s leave of up to 104 weeks is available to employees with 12 months’ continuous service. That's provided the employee will be caring for a ‘relevant person’. As an employer, you can refuse a request for carer’s leave if the employee doesn't meet the statutory requirements.
Carer’s leave entitlement
Under the Carer’s Leave Act 2001, qualifying employees can take carer’s leave of at least 13 weeks and up to a maximum of 104 weeks. If an employee applies for less than 13 weeks of carer’s leave from work, you may refuse the request. You are not required to pay employees who are absent on carer’s leave. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that people who need to provide carer’s leave for ‘relevant persons’ will have their employment protected while they are absent from work.
Qualifying for carer’s leave
Employees must have completed 12 months’ continuous service before making a request for carer’s leave. The request must relate to providing care for a ‘relevant person’, which is someone suffering from a disability and needs full-time care. The authority who makes that decision is an officer of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The deciding officer will base his/her findings on specific medical information relating to the relevant person. The relevant person does not need to be a family member or spouse. It may be a friend of the employee.
Notice of carer’s leave
Your employee must provide you with at least 6 weeks’ notice of his/her intention to take carer’s leave which should include a copy of the application for determination by the deciding officer or the deciding officer’s decision as to whether the person who requires care is a ‘relevant person’.
Confirmation of carer’s leave
Your employee should provide you with a copy of the decision of the deciding officer. Both you and your employee should sign a confirmation document no less than two weeks before the period of carer’s leave is due to begin. The confirmation document should set out the key details of the period of leave such as:
- The date the carer’s leave will start.
- The duration of the carer’s leave.
- Whether they'll take it in one continuous block or in intervals.
Carer's leave is a protected period of leave and the employee’s continuity of employment doesn't break through a period of absence brought on by carer’s leave. The employee will retain all employment rights and obligations throughout the period of carer’s leave except his/her right to remuneration and pension benefits/contributions. Annual leave and public holidays continue to accrue during the first 13 weeks of the period of carer's leave.
Employment during a period of carer’s leave
Employees may undertake certain employment or training courses provided the course or employment receives approval from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and that adequate care for the relevant person is available. The permitted employment or training can be:
- Employment outside the home for up to 15 hours per week.
- Limited self-employment in the employee's home.
- An educational or training course or undertake voluntary or community work for up to 15 hours per week.
Returning from carer’s leave
Your employee should notify you in writing not less than four weeks before the date they intend to return to work. You must ensure that the employee returns to the same position they were working in immediately before the period of carer’s leave began or to an equivalent position if it is not reasonably practicable for you to permit the employee to return to their normal job. You must not alter the employee’s terms and conditions of employment. The employee must work under the same terms and conditions of employment they were operating under before the period of carer’s leave began or at least on terms that are no less favourable than the original terms and conditions. If it's not reasonably practicable for you to offer the employee the same job on his/her return from carer’s leave, the employee can receive suitable alternative employment on terms and conditions of employment that aren't substantially less favourable.
Under the Carer’s Leave Act, you must keep all records relating to periods of carer's leave taken by all employees. That's for a period of eight years. Failing to keep adequate records exposes you to a fine on summary conviction not exceeding €3,000. Need help with a request for carer’s leave? Call us today to speak with an employment law expert: 0818 923 923.