The new Work Life Balance & Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 has recently been signed into law by President Higgins. This will bring some additional leave and benefits to employees based in the Republic of Ireland. To help your business navigate through these new regulations, we’ve compiled a summary and questions to get you started.
What is the Work Life Balance & Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023?
This Act has 5 new provisions:
1. Right to Request Remote Working
2. Right to Request a Flexible Working Arrangement
3. Leave provisions for medical care purposes
4. Domestic Violence Leave
5. Extensions to the rights for breastfeeding parents.
In some cases, these are extending existing rights while in others they present new regulations and processes to be followed by employee & employers.
When can we expect these changes?
While the Act has been signed into law, the provisions of the Act require commencement orders before becoming effective. Some are likely due to be in place over the coming weeks, but others, such as the right to request remote, flexible working and domestic violence leave will be governed by new Codes of Practice, these are to be developed by the Workplace Relations Commission.
Breastfeeding Parents Leave
The first change expected is the extension to the rights of breastfeeding parents to take time off during the work day will soon be extended from 26 weeks to 104 weeks from the birth of the child.
Leave for medical care purposes
Parents and carers will be entitled to up to 5 days unpaid leave in a 12 month rolling period for the purposes of providing care for a serious medical reason to relevant persons such as children, spouse, relatives or a person residing in the same household.
Employees must give written notice to their employer of their intention to take or have taken leave for medical care purposes as soon as reasonably practicable. Employers must prepare a confirmation document which must include:
a) The date on which the leave will commence
b) The duration of the leave
c) The purpose of the leave
d) The signatures of the employer and employee
Employers are required to retain records of leave for medical care purposes for a period of 3 years.
This leave may not be taken in periods of less than 1 day. Employees may be required to provide evidence of their entitlement to take leave for medical care purposes. For example, a doctor’s certificate.
Remote & Flexible Working
All employees with more than 6 months service will be eligible to apply for remote and/or flexible working. This could be on a full or part time basis and parameters of the considerations will be published to provide further guidance.
Domestic Violence leave
Paid leave for victims of domestic violence will allow time off for individuals who are currently in an emergency situation as well as those who may have appointments or follow ups to make in relation to previous incidents with the Gardai or other professional bodies. The rate at which employers will be expected to pay employees has not yet been confirmed.
What does that mean for my organisation?
As we can see from above, many of the new regulations use quite broad language with room for interpretation and discussion on an ad hoc basis. Fair practices will underpin all of the amendments in the new legislation with equal treatment of applications, process lead decision making and accurate record keeping essential for employers. The Workplace Relations Commission are expected to have the ability to question and prompt reviews of decisions made but are not expected to be able to overturn decisions in relation to remote and flexible working.
The additional changes are expected to be implemented later this year upon once commencement orders and/or WRC Codes of Practice are made available. We expect the Codes of Practice to provide some further context on the requirements for employers to respond to requests for these provisions. It’s likely that your employees have questions about how this Act will impact them so becoming familiar with these changes is strongly recommended.
How do we prepare?
In due course, it will be necessary to update your Employee Handbook or to introduce new policies which cover the processes outlined in the Codes of Practice and Legislation. For the moment, it is important to familiarise yourself with the upcoming amendments and consider what the impact may be from various aspects including budget, employee relations and strategic goals.
The changes being rolled out will provide a number of supports for your employees as well as the opportunity to discuss the topics of remote and flexible working arrangements. Having a well prepared and considered policy is critical in navigating these discussions in a productive manner that is consistent with your business goals.