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Shorter Working Year scheme

You can take up to 13 weeks unpaid leave each year under the Shorter Working Year scheme (SWY).

The leave cannot be for less than 2 weeks, or more than 13 weeks, at any time during the year.

Aim of the scheme

The scheme aims to give workers a better work-life balance.

Under the scheme, you can apply to take leave to balance work and outside commitments including childcare.

One of the benefits of the scheme is that parents may take leave at the same time as school holidays.

Amount of leave

Leave under this scheme is available as a period of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 13 weeks. The leave may be taken as one continuous period, or as a maximum of 3 separate periods. Each period of leave must not be less than 2 weeks and not more than 13 weeks in total.

Payments under the scheme

Leave taken under this scheme is unpaid.

You can apply for special salary arrangements. This means you may get part of your salary even when you are on unpaid leave. Your salary is spread out over 12 months. You must apply for this in writing, and the signed-off application must be submitted to your local processing department before 31 October in the year before you intend to take your unpaid leave.

PRSI and other contributions

If you are on the Shorter Working Year scheme, you are not earning during the period of leave. This means that you are not making PRSI contributions during this time. You should contact the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to clarify how this impacts you.

It is your responsibility to ensure any voluntary contributions normally deducted from your salary continue to be paid. For example health insurance or savings plans. This only applies if these deductions normally come from your salary.

Accepting your leave

If approved, you must accept the offer for leave within 5 working days. If you do not accept the offer, it may be given to another person.

If you make special salary arrangements you cannot change or cancel the dates of your leave.

How other leave entitlement is affected by the scheme

Sick leave

You cannot take sick leave while you are on leave under the Shorter Working Year scheme.

Annual leave and public holidays

You do not accrue annual leave while on leave under the scheme. Your annual leave entitlement will be adjusted.

You may be entitled to public holidays while on leave under the scheme. You must not have been absent for more than 13 weeks before the public holiday.

You may be entitled to one of the following:

  • a paid day off within a month of the public holiday
  • an additional day of annual leave
  • an additional day’s pay

Annual leave entitlement

Annual leave is based on a 52 week working year.

If you take 2 weeks SWY leave, your working year becomes a 50 week working year.

If your normal annual leave entitlement is 28 days (based on 52 weeks), your reduced annual leave is calculated as:

  • number of working weeks minus your two weeks SWY leave (50) multiplied by your contractual annual leave days entitlement (28 days)
  • 50 X 28 = 1400
  • divide your answer by 52 (number of weeks in full working year)
  • 1400 / 52 = 26.92 / 27 days - following this calculation you are entitled to 27 days annual leave

Reckonable service

The leave you take under this scheme is reckonable for increments and seniority. It is not reckonable for pension purposes.

Shorter Working Year scheme (HR Circular) (PDF, 272KB, 7 pages)

How to apply

You must apply by 31 October in the year before you want to take the leave.

You will need to state how much leave you want to take and the dates of this leave.

Submit the shorter working year application form (PDF, 3 pages, 106KB) to your HR department.

Your manager may not be able to agree to all the leave that you are requesting.

They may have to refuse your request because:

  • you have specialist or hard to replace skills
  • you work in a location where your absence would be difficult to fill
  • colleagues are also looking for leave under the scheme
  • colleagues will be on reduced hours and other types of leave at the same time

If there are a number of applications, your manager may have to prioritise them.

Your manager may suggest staggering the leave. For example, you may be asked to only take some of your leave over the summer months.

Late applications

Your manager may approve a late application from you for a period of leave of up to 8 weeks.

You should submit your late application no later than 6 weeks before you take your leave.

Special salary arrangements are not available for late applications.

Related topics

Parent's leave

Parental leave

National HR Employee Helpdesk

Phone: 1800 444 925


The helpdesk is open 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday