by Alicia Compton, Partner in the Employment & Benefits Department, William Fry LLP
Irish employees will soon have a statutory entitlement to paid domestic violence leave for five days in any 12-month period at their full rate of pay.
This is one of several additional statutory entitlements for workers introduced under the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 (the 2023 Act). The 2023 Act transposes the EU Work Life Balance Directive into Irish law. While the 2023 Act was enacted in April 2023, some parts of the new legislation, including domestic violence leave, have yet to commence.
Regulations setting out the daily rate of pay applicable to employees who avail of domestic violence leave are required before the leave comes into effect. The government recently announced its aim to introduce such regulations this autumn (2023).
Domestic violence is defined as violence, or threat of violence, including sexual violence and acts of coercive control committed against an employee or a relevant person. The domestic violence can be carried out by a person who is either; the spouse or civil partner of the employee/relevant person, the cohabitant of the employee/relevant person, in an intimate relationship with the employee/relevant person or a child of the employee/relevant person who is of full age and not a dependent person in relation to the employee/dependent person.
Once this leave is in effect, employees who are or have experienced domestic violence will be entitled to five paid days of domestic violence leave in a consecutive 12-month period. The purpose of the leave is to enable those employees to seek medical help, obtain counselling, relocate, seek advice or assistance, or obtain a safety order from the courts. The domestic violence leave extends to ‘relevant persons’. ‘Relevant persons’ are defined in the 2023 Act as a person of whom the employee is the spouse or civil partner of the employee, the cohabitant of the employee, a person with whom the employee is in an intimate relationship, the child of the employee who has not attained full age or a person, who, in relation to the employee is a dependent person. This means an employee can also avail of this leave to assist a ‘relevant person’ in any of these ways.
It was anticipated that employees who avail of domestic violence leave would only receive 70% of their pay up to a maximum of €110 per day. Stakeholders, including Women’s Aid, criticised this proposal and argued that victims of domestic violence need financial stability and should not be subject to reduced wages.
To ensure that the leave is accessible to those who need it, the 2023 Act does not provide any grounds on which an employer can refuse a request from an employee to avail of the leave. Further, an employer cannot request proof of domestic violence, and there is no service requirement. Employees must notify their employer ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after taking the leave that they have availed of domestic violence leave.
Other new or enhanced statutory entitlements
The 2023 Act also introduced other new or enhanced statutory entitlements.
Medical Care Leave
Employees are now entitled to take five days of unpaid medical care leave in any consecutive 12-month period to care for certain persons who need significant care or support for a serious medical reason. This leave has been available to employees since 3 July 2023.
Employees who are breastfeeding are entitled to reduce their working hours or receive paid time off for breastfeeding. The 2023 Act extended this entitlement from six months after the birth of a child to two years. This change took effect on 3 July 2023.
Request for remote working arrangements
Employees may soon request a remote working arrangement. Six months service is required before an employee can begin such an arrangement. There is no entitlement to a remote working arrangement, and employers can refuse such a request provided reasons for refusal are given to the employee. The right to request such an arrangement has yet to come into effect.
Request for flexible working arrangements for caring purposes
Employees may now request a flexible working arrangement to provide care to a child or certain persons in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason. Flexible work can be an adjustment to the employee’s working arrangements, work patterns and/or working hours. Six months service is required before an employee can begin such an arrangement. There is no entitlement to a flexible working arrangement, and employers can refuse such a request provided reasons for refusal are given to the employee. The right to request such an arrangement has yet to come into effect.
Next steps for employers
Employers should ensure that their existing family and caring leave policies are compliant with the provisions of the 2023 Act that relate to medical care leave and the extension of breastfeeding arrangements, as these have already come into effect. Employers should also consider what policy amendments and changes to work practices will be required once the new statutory entitlements relating to (1) domestic violence leave, (2) the right to request remote working arrangements and (3) the right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes come into effect.
The author would like to thank Ellen O’Duffy for her contribution to this article
About the author
Alicia Compton is a Partner in the Employment & Benefits Department atWilliam Fry LLP. Alicia advises on employment matters with particular experience in advising on the employment aspects of corporate restructuring, the termination of employment and in relation to employment issues in the public sector.