Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, notes the announcement today of the General Scheme of the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019. Whilst welcoming aspects of the legislation, there is also concern that a heavy burden is being placed on business for the delivery of greater work-life balance in the economy.
Commenting, Maeve McElwee, Director of Employer Relations at Ibec, said:
“The challenge of achieving a balance between the demands of work and the demands of home life including the benefits of early childhood interventions are well recognised by Irish businesses. This issue of work and life balance is a key focus of the current Ibec campaign Smarter World, Smarter Work. In order to facilitate that balance, there is a responsibility to deliver initiatives that are sustainable and don’t undermine competitiveness at this crucial time in our economy.
“While there are welcome aspects in the legislation, particularly the ambition to encourage more men to take-up their share of caring responsibilities, it will be extremely costly for many small and medium size enterprises. Although the payment for this additional parental leave will be made by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, there will be a considerable cost to businesses through absent expertise, lost productivity, recruitment and training costs as well as the administration of the new and existing schemes for parental leave. The overall burden falling on businesses will be disproportionate and will be heightened as the leave is increased to seven weeks by 2021.
“There is also the broader concern of competitiveness issues arising from the extension of the scheme as the government decision to top-up the social welfare payment to full salary will inevitably inflate public sector pay costs and impact resourcing.
“It is vital that any new proposal is considered in the light of a number of similar proposals at both national and EU level including a Private Member’s Bill proposing to extend unpaid parental leave to 26 working weeks which is at final stages of the Seanad and a proposed EU Directive on improving work-life balance to introduce two months paid parental leave. As a result, the legislative framework relating to caring responsibilities is developing piecemeal and without balancing the interests of the various cohorts who will be affected. These initiatives have significant implications for all concerned and require a much more coordinated and coherent approach than is currently being applied to this important policy issue.”