Work Life Balance Bill becomes law update for employers

April 26, 2023

The Work Life Balance Directive was due to be transposed into Irish law by 2 August 2022. While this deadline was missed, the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 (the WLB Bill) was signed into law by Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland on 4 April 2023. 

Although the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 has been enacted it now requires commencement order(s) to issue in order for the new entitlements to enter into force. Further information regarding the anticipated timelines is set out below.

The main changes to be introduced by this Work Life Balance Act are as follows:

1. Right to request remote working

The Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2022 was integrated into the WLB Bill and has seen significant amendment from that initially proposed early last year.
Under the new Work Life Balance Act, 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 employees and a new Code of Practice to be developed by the WRC.

The WLB Act removes the statutory requirement for an employer to have a remote working policy but provides that guidance will be set out in the aforementioned Code of Practice.

2. Right to request flexible working arrangements for parents and carers

The WLB Act includes a right for employees with children, and those with caring responsibilities to request flexible working arrangements. Employers in receipt of such requests must consider the request in accordance with its needs and the employee’s needs and must provide reasons if refused.
Crucially, the WLB Act clarifies that in hearing claims relating to requests for remote or flexible working, the WRC/Labour Court may not assess the merits of a decision reached by an employer.

3. Paid domestic violence leave

The WLB Act provides for the introduction of 5 days paid domestic violence leave over a 12-month period.

4. Unpaid leave for medical care purposes for parents and carers

The WLB Act will introduce an entitlement to 5 days unpaid leave over a 12-month period to provide personal care/support to a care recipient for serious medical reasons. This entitlement is in addition to existing statutory entitlements to carer’s leave and force majeure leave.

5. Amendments to the Maternity Protection Acts

The WLB Act will extend the period during with there is an entitlement to breastfeeding breaks from 26 weeks to 104 weeks. The WLB Act also provides for the extension of maternity leave entitlements to transgender men.

It is anticipated that the 5 days medical care leave and extension of breastfeeding breaks provided for in the Act may come into effect soon.

The time frame for the publication of the code of practice in relation to the right to request remote and flexible working has not been definitively set out as yet, and some consultation with both employers and worker representatives remains to be done. Ibec, together with other stakeholders, will be engaging with the Workplace Relations Commission around the preparation of the relevant Code of Practice.

Regulations setting out the rate of pay for domestic violence leave are also required before the entitlement to paid domestic violence leave comes into force. It is anticipated guidance for employers will also in relation to domestic violence leave prior to these provisions being commenced.

Employers should review their existing remote/hybrid and flexible working policies, employee handbooks and such documents to ensure compliance with this important new legislation.