Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants


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Unpaid Leave

The following information relates to the Civil Service. For managers in the commercial and non-commercial State sector please visit the relevant organisation's website on the links page.


Relevant circulars may be downloaded from the Government Circulars website.

Parental Leave

14 weeks unpaid leave is available in relation to each child under 18. Both parents are entitled to take parental leave. In general you can only take 14 weeks leave in any period of 12 months. Parental leave can be taken either in a continuous block or any combination of periods e.g. weekly or monthly blocks etc. The entitlement to parental leave is based on the Parental Leave Act 1998, as amended by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006. For more information visit the Citizens Information website or view Department of Finance Circular 22/98.


Domestic Circumstances

Special leave without pay, up to a maximum period of two months, may be granted in special circumstances for urgent domestic affairs, irrespective of whether special leave with pay may be granted. Where special leave is sought to cope with family difficulties arising from the death or serious illness of an immediate relative, the amount of leave without pay allowable may be extended to six months.

Up to six months special leave without pay is available if you have to care for an immediate relative or, in exceptional circumstances, a more distant relative.

Up to two months special leave without pay is available in the event that you have to travel abroad to visit an immediate relative and in exceptional circumstances, a more distant relative, who is suffering from sudden and unforeseen illness, provided that you are the only person able to make the visit.

Refer to information in Circular 22/98  on the Government Circulars website.

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Carers Leave

The Carer's Leave Act 2001 allows employees to leave their employment temporarily to provide full-time care for someone in need of full-time care and attention. Since 24 March 2006 the minimum period of leave is 13 weeks and the maximum period is 104 weeks. For more information visit the Citizens Information website.



Unpaid special leave of up to one year is available if you have been attending the night lectures of a primary degree course and want to attend the day lectures of the final year of the course where this would shorten the attendance at the course by one year.

Unpaid special leave for up to two months is available for study or other relevant purposes during the final year of a primary degree course. A short period of special leave without pay may be allowed for study purposes before an examination for which special leave with pay may be granted

Unpaid special leave for up to one academic year is available for a post-graduate University course or specialised courses of study that the Department feels is directly relevant to the job. Information on paid study leave is available under the Paid Special Leave section of the site.

Voluntary Work

Unpaid special leave for up to one year is available to work with voluntary organisations in Ireland who are engaged wholly or mainly in charitable work, community welfare or work directly related to the Irish language or national culture.

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 Shorter Working Year (previously Term-Time Leave)

Term Time leave allows working parents or primary carers to match their working arrangements to the main summer holidays of their children, or to care for a person who resides with them and who has a disability which gives rise to the need for care on a continuing or frequent basis. Departments/offices have discretion to refuse term time applications.

Term Time leave can be taken for either thirteen, ten or eight weeks between the beginning of June and the end of August. You may not take leave (paid or unpaid) in the four weeks immediately prior to and following the period of Term Time.

The normal arrangement when on unpaid leave is that you do not receive your salary during the leave. A major advantage of Term Time is that you can apply to have your full years salary spread across the year so that you received a reduced amount all year including while on leave.

The period of Term Time leave will reckon for the purposes of increments and Seniority but does not reckon for pension purposes. For more information view Circular 14/2009 on the Government Circulars website.


Career Break

A career break is a period of unpaid special leave of between six months and five years which is for child-rearing, other domestic purposes (e.g. care of a sick relative), educational purposes or travel abroad. You may not take up paid employment during a career break.

You can take two career breaks but there has to be a space between them as long as the first break. For more information view Circular 18/98 on the Government Circulars website.

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Other Unpaid Leave

Unpaid special leave is allowed for other ‘reasonable purposes’ at the discretion of the Head of the Department


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Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants