Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill

judge with gavel in hand

by Siobhan Lafferty, Senior Associate in Reddy Charlton’s Employment and Regulatory team

The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill (the ‘Bill’) has passed both houses and been signed into law by the President. The Bill was introduced in order to give further effect to the EU Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers, as well as making amendments to the Parental Leave Act 1998 and Maternity Protection Act amongst others. What does the Bill mean for employers and employees?

Leave for medical care purposes

The Parental Leave Act 1998 is amended to include a right for the employee to leave (without pay) for the purposes of providing personal care or in order to support a person who is, for example, the spouse or civil partner of the employee; cohabitant of the employee; a parent or grandparent of the employee; or a sibling, amongst some others.

This leave will be classed as leave for medical care purposes. This is restricted to five days in any 12 month period and the minimum period that can be taken is one day.

When an employee intends to take leave for medical care purposes, then as soon as is practicable the employee has to inform the employer with information as to the following:

• the date of commencement of the leave for medical care purposes and its duration;
• provide a statement of the facts entitling the employee to the leave; and
• be signed by the employee concerned.

The employer can ask for certain further detail such as the relationship with the person who is in need of medical care; the nature of the personal care or support required; and relevant evidence, which may mean providing a medical certificate.

Domestic Violence Leave

The Bill also introduces domestic violence leave. This is to be taken where an employee is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence in the past, and the leave is to give the person the chance to seek medical attention, get counselling, relocate or seek advice or assistance from a victim service organisation, a solicitor or the Garda Síochána.

In this case the employee should give notice as soon as reasonably practicable after the leave was taken that they took domestic violence leave and similar to the medical care leave, cannot be for more than 5 days in a period of 12 months. Employees who take such leave will be paid a prescribed daily rate of pay, which the Minister will set.

Right to request a Remote Working Arrangement

The Bill provides for the right to request remote working after having been employed for a period of 6 months with the employer. The request must be in writing and signed by the employee and provide the following detail:

• the details of the remote working arrangement;
• the proposed commencement date, and where applicable, expiration date;
• the reason for requesting remote working;
• details of the proposed remote working location; and
• information as may be specified in the Code of Practice on the suitability of the remote working location.

This has to be submitted to the employer as soon as reasonably practicable, but no later than 8 weeks before the proposed commencement of the arrangement.

The employer can ask for further information on the request and should take into consideration the employer’s needs, the employee’s needs and the requirements of the Code of Practice when responding to the application. The Code of Practice will be published by the Workplace Relations Commission but is not in place as yet.

Employers should reply to the request as soon as reasonably practicable and no later than 4 weeks after the receipt of the request. They will then either have to approve the request and provide details of the arrangement along or inform the employee that the request has been refused and the reasons for the refusal.

The employee will have provision to terminate a remote working arrangement where it has been agreed in certain circumstances, such as the nature of the duties of the employee or seasonal variations in the volume of the work concerned.

An employee cannot be penalised for having brought a request for flexible work.

Similar to the originally drafted legislation on the right to request flexible work, if a case is brought before the Workplace Relations Commission, this will essentially be for failure to comply with the provisions of the Bill, rather than around the substantive reason for refusing a request for remote working.

It is worth remembering that this is a right to request remote working rather than a right to remote working itself.

Right to Request a Flexible Working Arrangement for Caring Purposes

The Bill introduces the right to request a flexible working arrangement for caring purposes. Such a request can be made by an employee who is a parent of a child or a person who is for example, the spouse or civil partner of the employee; cohabitant of the employee; a parent or grandparent of the employee; or a sibling, amongst some others. It applies for the giving of care of a child up to the age of 12 years old or 16 years old where the child concerned has a disability or long-term illness.

In order to request such a flexible working arrangement, the person affected must be in need of significant care or support for a serious medical condition.

This is generally dealt with similarly to the right to request remote working arrangement, and similarly is only the right to request the flexible working arrangement and not a right to a flexible working arrangement.

Maternity Rights

A change has been made to the Maternity Protection Act 1994 in order to extend the entitlement to breastfeeding breaks to two years after the birth of the child.

Next Steps

Employers may need to consider the policies they have in place and start considering changes in line with the new legislation.

Article first published on Legal Island in April 2023

About the author
Siobhán is a solicitor in Reddy Charlton’s Employment and Regulatory team. Siobhán has a wide range of experience in both contentious and non-contentious employment law. Her work includes advising employers in relation to day to day employment law queries ranging from the beginning to the end of the employment relationship. This includes employment contracts and handbooks, restructuring and redundancy advice, severance agreements, restrictive covenants and the defence of employment claims. Siobhán frequently advises employees and has acted for a number of employees in relation to the negotiation of favourable exit packages. Siobhán also advises on disciplinary and regulatory issues. In addition to practising in Ireland and the UK, Siobhán has also worked on employment law issues for the Falkland Islands.