New Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 has been published. The Bill will give effect to the EU Work Life Balance Directive, introducing a range of measures to improve family-friendly work practices and support women in the work force. The proposed legislation will give parents and carers of children under twelve the right to request flexible work, it will introduce five days unpaid leave for medical care reasons and extend paid entitlement to breastfeeding breaks from six months to two years. The Bill will also see the introduction of paid leave for victims of domestic violence.
Key points of note under this Bill include:
- A right to leave for medical care purposes, both for employees with children up to age 12 and carers
A new leave for “medical care purposes” is being introduced, whereby employees will be entitled to five days unpaid leave per calendar year to provide care or support to a family member or 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. Employees will be required to confirm to their employer in writing, as soon as reasonably practicable, that they intend to take or have taken this leave. Employers may request medical cert of the need for significant care or support of a serious medical issue.
- A right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes, for parents and carers
Employees who have a child up to the age of 12 (or 16 if the child has a disability or long-term illness) and employees who are caring for a relative or someone they live with will have the right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes for a particular period. The Bill refers to "flexible working arrangements" as changing work arrangements, work patterns or hours of work. An employee must have six month’s continuous service before a period of flexible working arrangements can commence and 8 weeks’ notice of a request must be given to the employer. An employer must respond to such request within four weeks of receipt, and this time period may be extended by a further four weeks if the employer is having difficulty assessing the viability of the request. An employer can postpone a request for flexible working arrangements, they must consult with the employee before postponing. The Grounds for postponement are similar in nature to those that apply in the context of postponing parental leave.
- Amendments to the Maternity Protection Act 1994
Breastfeeding breaks (without loss of pay) are to be extended to 104 weeks from 26 weeks for those who have returned to work. Employees who are currently breastfeeding are entitled to take up to one hour off work each day, with pay, for breastfeeding purposes for the first six months after birth, and this is due to increase up until the child is two years old. The Bill contains other amendments 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.
- Domestic violence leave
Once the legislation is commenced, those who are suffering or at risk of domestic violence will be entitled to five days of paid leave per year. The Government has said it will also put in place supports for employers to assist them in developing domestic violence workplace policies and to better support employees experiencing domestic violence.
It is anticipated that the legislation will be passed by the end of the year. Employers must prepare for its implementation by reviewing and updating their existing family leave and flexible working policies ahead of this legislation’s enactment. The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 can be viewed here. The SFA recently recorded a webinar which discusses the key measures being introduced under this Bill, and an overview of all employee family leave entitlements – you can view the recording here. The SFA will continue to keep members updated on the introduction of this legislation as it progresses over the coming weeks. You can contact our HR Executive Fiona Mulligan on firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01 6051557 if you have any questions on the above.