The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions, Act 2023 (the “Act”) was signed into law by President Higgins on 4 April 2023. The Act introduces measures which are aimed at supporting employees in Ireland in balancing their family life, work life and caring responsibilities.
Part 1, Part 2, other than sections 7, 8, 12 (a), 13 and 14, and sections 32 to 39 of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 will be commenced on Monday 3 July 2023.
As part of the legislation, there are a number of changes to an employees rights:-
Right to Request Remote Working (Section 20)
Under the new legislation, all employees will have a right to request remote work. An employer will be required to consider such requests in accordance with its needs, the needs of its employees and a new Code of Practice which is being developed by the Workplace Relations Commission.
Right to Request Flexible Working Arrangements for Parents and Carers (Section 13B)
Similarly, the right to request flexible working for parents and carers will be commenced following the preparation of a Code of Practice by the Workplace Relations Commission under Part 4. Employers must consider the request in accordance with its needs, the needs of its employees and must provide reasons if refused.
The employee can only request this leave if the affected person requires significant care or support for a “serious medical reason.” An employer is entitled to request relevant evidence of the serious medical condition such as a medical certificate.
In order for an employee to request flexible working arrangements for the care of a child, the child must be less than twelve years old or less than sixteen years old if they suffer with a disability or long-time illness.
Paid Domestic Violence Leave (Section 7)
The Act introduces this new leave which provides 5 days paid leave for victims of domestic violence. It is envisaged that the leave will allow the affected employee to seek medical advice, legal representation and to engage with specialist support services such as counselling. The Government has indicated it plans to commence the legislative provisions introducing domestic violence leave in the autumn.
Unpaid Leave for Medical Care Purposes for Parents and Carers (Section 6)
The new right to leave for medical care purposes will give parents and carers access to a flexible short-term form of unpaid leave, providing certainty at difficult moments, should they need it.
Amendments to the Maternity Protection Acts (Section 34)
The entitlement to breastfeeding breaks will be extended from the current period of six months — a time which coincides with maternity leave — up to two years. The Government has outlined that this extension is to support women who continue to breastfeed after their return from maternity leave and is in line with best practices from a public health perspective.
The Act also provides for the extension of maternity leave entitlements to transgender men.