Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022.
This Bill is required to implement the EU Work Life Balance Directive, which Ireland needs to transpose by August 2022. This proposed piece of legislation goes further than the Directive in some areas. Notably, it gives employees with children up to age 12 the right to request flexible working arrangements. In contrast, the Directive only affords the right to employees with children up to the age of 8. That being said, it does not extend the right to all employees. This article will discuss the key elements of this Bill and what it could mean for employers and employees if enacted by the end July 2022 as stated by the government.
Key Elements the Work Life Balance Bill aims to introduce.
This Bill if passed will introduce a number of rights and protections such as:
- The right to request flexible working for employees with children up to age 12 (or age 16 if the child has a disability or long-term illness).
- The right for employees to take up to 5 days unpaid leave per year to provide medical care for family members or a person living in the same household as the employee.
- Allows an employee who is new parent to take paid time off work to breastfeed for up to 2 years post-birth. This is an increase from 26 weeks post-birth.
- Extends the right to maternity leave to transgender men, who have obtained a gender recognition certificate, in accordance with the Gender Recognition Act 2015. They would now fall within the scope of the Maternity Protection Act 1994.
Flexible Working Request
An employee must be in continuous employment for at least 6 months before they can make the request. Employees must make the request in writing at least 6 weeks before their intended flexible work start date. The employer must consider the request and respond within 4 weeks. The employer can extend this consideration period for a further 8 weeks with the employee’s agreement. The employer can decide to accept, refuse or postpone and communicate this decision to the employee. The employer has a duty to give reasons for their decision to refuse or postpone. Postponement can be up to 6 months if they are satisfied that it would have a substantial adverse effect on the business.
The Bill gives some guidance as to what qualifies as substantial adverse effects:
- Seasonal variations in the volume of work.
- The unavailability of someone to carry out the employee’s duties.
- The nature of the employee’s duties.
- The number of other employees using flexible work already.
- Any other relevant matter.
However, the Bill does not give similar guidance regarding the reasons for refusing a flexible work request. Should the employer decide to accept the request then both the employer and employee must sign an agreement. This agreement must set out the changes to the working arrangement, patterns or hours, state the commencement date and duration of the agreed period.
Medical Care Leave
An employee will be able to take up to five days unpaid leave per year in order to care or support a family member or person living in the same household. This is leave is where there are serious medical reasons requiring care or support from the employee. The leave cannot be taken in periods of less than one day.
Employees must inform their employer in writing that they wish to or have taken such leave. The employee should include the date of commencement, duration and relevant facts entitling them to this leave.
Employers can request evidence of the employee’s relationship with the person being cared for, the nature of the care and medical certification stating the serious medical issue.
An employee would be entitled paid time off work to breastfeed for up to two years post-birth. This is a significant increase from 26 weeks.
The Right to Maternity Leave for Transgender Men
The Bill would extend the right to maternity leave for transgender men who have obtained a gender recognition certificate (in accordance with the Gender Recognition Act 2015) as falling within the scope of the Maternity Protection Act 1994.
In conclusion, the government intend to pass this Bill by the end of July 2022 or August 2022. As a result of this legal development, employers should begin reviewing and possibly amending their leave family and carers leave policies. Once the Bill becomes law, these relevant workplace policies must comply with these changes as outlined above.
For further information on the proposed Bill please contact one of the following members of our employment law team: Shane Crossan, Judith Curtin, Elaine O’Flynn or Sarah Coughlan.