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The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act gives new rights to employees to support a balance between their work life, family life and caring responsibilities.

Some provisions of the new legislation are in effect adopting EU directives, while others are revising and clarifying Irish policies around family leave and remote working. The Act includes provisions for unpaid leave and the right to request flexible work schedules for the care of children or other family members who require medical attention.

This article explains the new legislation’s implications for employers and provides tips on how employers can prepare to implement the legislation in workplaces.

Why is the Act being introduced in Ireland?

  • Legislation is part of a wider EU commitment towards a more diverse and inclusive workplace
  • More clarity and balance in the workplace between employers and employees
  • To eliminate unplanned absences and to focus on creating a better work-life balance

What topics are covered in the Act?

  • The right to request flexible working hours for parents and carers who provide care and support for children and persons who need significant care and support for serious medical reasons
  • Five days of unpaid leave for medical care purposes for carers and parents who meet the above criteria
  • The right to request remote working for any employee
  • The extension of breastfeeding breaks to cover the first two years
  • The right to take maternity leave for transgender men
  • Five days of paid leave for victims of domestic violence

On 3 July 2023, the first elements of the Act came into force. These are:

  • Medical care leave
  • Breastfeeding breaks
  • Maternity leave access.

The remaining elements are due to come into effect later in the year.

  1. Medical Care leave

The unpaid leave for medical care grants 5 days unpaid leave within a 12 month period if you need to take time off work to deal with serious medical care for a child or other relevant person like a family member. These members of family include a spouse, civil partner, parent, sibling or person who resides in the same household as an employee.

Unpaid leave for medical care is different to force majeure leave, which is paid leave for an urgent family crisis.

  1. Breastfeeding Breaks

The Act increases the current breastfeeding facilitation period following childbirth from 26 weeks to 104 weeks. An employee may take advantage of shortened hours or paid time off during this period. Employers have a responsibility to set up the necessary amenities in the workplace so that a breastfeeding employee can resume work.

What are the Key Takeaways for Employers?

  • It is advised that HR professionals read the most recent legislation in order to fully understand the changes and additions made by this legislation as it covers a wide range of significant and complex concerns.
  • Look out for government announcements on when the next set of entitlements will be rolled out.
  • Employers should evaluate their current policies and practices to make sure they comply with the Act.
  • In order to be ready for the pending law, HR professionals should update company policies on remote work and domestic leave, as the proposed legislation will be the first to address these issues.