The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 (the “Act”) was signed into law on 4 April 2023.
The Act aims to support better work/life balance for all employees, but particularly employees with family and caring duties and victims of domestic abuse, with the introduction of a range of new rights.
New rights for employees
The Act introduces the following new rights for employees:
- The right to request flexible working arrangements for parents and carers.
- The right to request remote working for all employees.
- Five days of unpaid leave for medical care purposes for parents of children under 12 and for carer.
- Five days of paid leave for victims of domestic violence.
- Breastfeeding breaks for up to two years (this was previously only 26 weeks).
Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman suggested the various elements of the Act will come into effect in a staggered manner, with the unpaid care leave and breastfeeding breaks to come in first.
Amendments to the Maternity Protection Acts
The Act transposes Articles 6 and 9 of the EU Work Life Balance Directive into Irish law. It also includes amendments to the Maternity Protection Acts to ensure transgender men can avail of maternity leave after giving birth.
Right to request remote working is not a right to remote work
It’s important for employers and employees to note that the Act only gives employees the right to request remote work and employers the obligation to consider and respond to such requests within a 4 week period. It does not, however, give all employees a right to work remotely.
Employers must by law, consider the needs of the company, the employee and the provisions of a promised code of practice. They must also, as mentioned above, respond in a reasonable time.
Employees are also entitled to file a complaint with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) if they feel their employer has not acted in alignment with the code of practice.
Right to request flexible working arrangement for caring purposes
Employers and employees should also note that parents and carers do not have an automatic right to flexible working arrangements, rather the right to request these arrangements. It should also be noted that this law only applies to employees who meet the following criteria as outlined in Subsection (2)(b)of the Act:
- a person of whom the employee is the relevant parent;
- the spouse or civil partner of the employee;
- the cohabitant of the employee;
- a parent or grandparent of the employee;
- a brother or sister of the employee;
- a person, other than one specified in any of subparagraphs (i) to (v), who resides in the same household as the employee,
(b) is in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason.
What should employers and relevant employees do next?
It’s essential and employers and employees to whom this Act is relevant, familiarise themselves with the various elements. As mentioned previously, the Government have confirmed that a Code of Practice is forthcoming. It’ll be essential to stay up to date with the various provisions of this Act as they develop.
About the Author: Marc Fitzgibbon, Partner in Employment and Nikita Kelly, Solicitor in Employment.