The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 2023 (2023 Act) was signed into law by the President on 4th April 2023. The 2023 Act transposes the EU Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers and introduces new rights for employees in Ireland. The aim of the 2023 Act is to aid in the balance between the personal and professional lives of employees.
The 2023 Act will come into effect in a staggered manner and the following provisions have already commenced from 3rd July this year.
Extended Breastfeeding Rights
The 2023 Act amends the Maternity Protection Act, 1994 (1994 Act) by increasing the period for which employees can take breaks to breastfeed or express milk. The entitlement of one hour paid leave per day for up to 26 weeks following the birth of their child has been extended to 104 weeks.
Leave for Medical Care Purposes
The 2023 Act states that an employee is entitled to unpaid leave of up to 5 days within a consecutive period of 12 months to care for someone in need of “significant care or support for a serious medical reason”. This includes a child, spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent, sibling or housemate of the employee who is in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason. The employee must inform their employer in writing as soon as reasonably practicable when the leave is to be taken and the duration of leave. If requested, the employee must also furnish the employer with details of the employee’s relationship to the person in respect of whom the leave for medical care purposes is proposed to be taken or was taken, the nature of the personal care or support required to be given and relevant evidence relating to the need of the person for the significant care or support concerned.
An employee does not have to have met a minimum service requirement to avail of this leave and this leave is in addition to an employee’s entitlement to Force Majeure Leave of 3 days leave in any 12 consecutive months, or 5 days in any 36 consecutive months under the Parental Leave Act, 1998.
Broadened Access to Maternity Leave
The 2023 Act also extends the right of taking maternity leave to transgender men who have given birth by deleting section 7(2) of the 1994 Act which referenced female employees only.
Further provisions which are due to come into effect later this year include:
Domestic Violence Leave
The 2023 Act provides for 5 days paid leave in a 12-month period for those who have experienced or are currently experiencing domestic violence. This leave will be for the purposes of enabling an employee to seek medical attention, obtain services from a victim services organisation, obtain psychological or other professional counselling, relocate, obtain an order under the Domestic Violence Act, 2018, seek legal assistance, seek assistance from the Síochána or seek any other relevant services that they may require. The rate of this paid leave has yet to be determined.
Remote Working & Flexible Working
All employees who have six months’ continuous service with their employer will have the right to request remote working arrangements. There are various requirements for employees who wish to request remote working arrangements such as giving an employer eight weeks’ notice in advance of the proposed remote working start date. If the employer refuses the request, they must provide grounds for refusal to the employee. The employer can also end a remote working arrangement if it adversely affects the operation of the business.
Employees who have six months’ continuous service with their employer and who have caring responsibilities in respect of specified persons under the 2023 Act, will also have the right to request flexible working arrangements. The employer will be under an obligation to consider the request and if refusing the request, the employer must provide grounds for the refusal.
A Code of Practice is awaited from the Workplace Relations Commission prior to the entitlement to requested remote/flexible working arrangements coming into effect. This Code of Practice is intended to set out practical guidance for employers and employees as to the steps that may be taken for complying with the requirements of the 2023 Act.
Employers should review their existing remote and flexible working policies and employee handbooks to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the 2023 Act.
If you need support with implementing the changes under the 2023, please do not hesitate to contact us.