Government approves drafting of the Work Life Balance Bill

May 17, 2022

Government approved the drafting of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill to give effect to the EU Work Life Balance Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/1158) which must be transposed by August 2022.

The proposed legislation will give parents and carers of children under twelve the right to request flexible work, will introduce five days unpaid leave for medical care reasons and extend paid entitlement to breastfeeding breaks from six months to two years.

Key points of note:

  • A new leave “leave for medical care purposes” to be introduced to transpose carer’s leave in accordance with Article 6 of the Work Life Balance Directive. The process for availing of same appears similar to force majeure leave. The leave is for 5 working days per calendar year for a relative or a person who lives in the same household as the employee. The leave can be fragmented, but not in periods of less than one day.
  • No service requirement is required, nor prior notice is required. Employer may request medical cert of the need for significant care or support of a serious medical issue. As it is currently drafted, there is no right for an employer to refuse or postpone the leave.
  • Right to request flexible working arrangements – employer can postpone request for flexible working arrangements. Employer can also refuse request for flexible working arrangements. Reasons for a postponement or refusal must be given in writing. An employer must consult with the employee before postponing. Grounds for postponement, as currently drafted, are similar in nature to those that apply in the context of postponing parental leave. Employee requires 6 months continuous service before a period of flexible working arrangements for caring purposes can commence and 6 weeks’ notice of a request must be given. Time periods in which an employer must respond are also set out in the draft scheme.
  • The draft scheme contains no mention of domestic violence leave. It is understood that proposed legislation is being drafted and could be introduced at a later stage.
  • Breastfeeding breaks (without loss of pay) are to be extended to 104 weeks from 26 weeks for those who have returned to work.
  • The draft scheme contains other amendments including an amendment to the Maternity Protection Acts to provide a transgender male who has, in accordance with the Gender Recognition Acts 2015, obtained a gender recognition cert, subsequently becomes pregnant to fall within the scope of the maternity protection legislation.
  • Further amendments include the legislation amending an anomaly in the Adoptive Leave Act 1995 whereby the amendments brought under the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021 refer to the qualifying adopter as “her” only, when the qualifying adopter can be either a male or female adopter.

While the leave is unpaid that does not mean it is without cost to the employer. Absence of all kinds places a cost of lost (i.e. productivity, opportunity, overtime, administration) on every business and the more frequently such absence occurs the greater the impact.

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