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On July 3rd, 2023, unpaid leave for medical care purposes was introduced in Ireland. This type of leave is the latest legislation to be implemented under the Work-Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023. 

What is covered under this leave?

Under this new unpaid leave, employees have a right to 5 days leave for medical care in any 12 consecutive months. This is the statutory entitlement, meaning the legal minimum. Employees don’t need to take the leave all at once. It can be taken as a single or multiple days. However, the leave cannot be taken in periods of less than one day. If an employee takes a half day’s leave, for example, it is still counted as one day.

Who is entitled to this leave?

Employees can apply for leave to care for or support their:

  • Child (including an adopted child)
  • Spouse or civil partner
  • Cohabitant
  • Parent or grandparent
  • Brother or sister
  • Housemate (any other person to those listed above who lives in the same house)

The person must need significant care or support for a serious medical reason. Employees do not need any minimum service with their employer to take this leave.

How does an employee receive this leave?

Employees are not required to give notice for this type of leave, only if it is possible to do so. However, employees must give confirmation to their employer in writing that they want to apply for (or have already taken) the leave. Employees should do this as soon as reasonably practicable and sign a confirmation.

The signed confirmation must contain:

  • The start date
  • Length of the leave
  • A statement of fact (explaining the entitlement to the leave).

An employer must keep the confirmation document and give the employee a written acknowledgment that they received the confirmation.

Employers can request relevant evidence of the medical need for the leave. Relevant evidence is either:

  • A medical certificate signed by a doctor
  • Other evidence the employer may reasonably require

The medical cert does not need to state the nature of the medical condition. It only needs to be a statement of fact that the person is, or was, in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason.

What is the difference between this Unpaid Leave and Force Majeure leave?

The main difference between these two types of leave is that force majeure leave is paid leave whilst the leave for medical care purposes is unpaid leave. By law, employees are entitled to take up to 3 days of force majeure leave in any 12 months, or 5 days in 36 months. Whereas, the leave for medical purposes entitles employees to 5 days leave in any 12 consecutive month period. Force majeure is for emergency and urgent family reasons, such as an unexpected family injury or illness.