Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022
26th September 2022
The Government has recently (September 23rd) announced approval of publication of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022, which will introduce a range of measures to improve family-friendly work practices and support women in the work force. The Bill will see the introduction of paid leave for victims of domestic violence. Once enacted, those who are suffering or at risk of domestic violence will be entitled to five days of paid leave per year.
The Government 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.
In addition to measures on domestic violence, the Bill contains three key measures to support families and carers, namely:
•A right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes, for parents and carers
•A right to leave for medical care purposes, both for employees with children up to age 12 and carers
•Extension of the current entitlement to breastfeeding/lactation breaks from six months to two years
Commenting on the Bill, Minister O’Gorman said: “I am pleased to have secured Cabinet approval for publication of the Work Life Balance Bill. We are committed to ensuring that every child gets the best start in life, and supporting all parents to spend more time with their children in those precious early years is a big part of that. “Through a wide-ranging suite of measures, it will provide additional flexibility to ensure that parents and carers can be supported to balance their working and family lives.
“Importantly, the Bill will also provide significant assistance to those who are suffering domestic, sexual or gender-based violence.
The Government has always prioritised the issue of domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence, and Ireland will now become one of the first countries in Europe to introduce a right to paid leave for victims of domestic violence.”
The Government also approved the Domestic Violence Leave Report which includes recommendations on how best to support employees experiencing domestic abuse.
The report makes two key recommendations:
1. That a form of domestic violence leave be introduced; and
2. That supports for employers be put in place to assist them in developing domestic violence workplace policies to complement the leave and better support employees experiencing domestic violence.
The Minister intends to introduce legislative provisions providing for a form of domestic violence leave as Committee Stage amendments to the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill.
REACTION from ICTU
Congress notes the Government approval for publication of the Work-Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022, which will introduce a range of measures required to transpose the EU Work-Life Balance Directive to improve family-friendly work practices and support women in the workforce.
The Bill will include a right to leave for medical care purposes, both for employees with children up to age 12 and carers and an extension of the current entitlement to breastfeeding/lactation breaks from six months to two years – a long-standing demand from Congress.
It will also introduce a right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes, for parents and carers. While welcome, it is our view that limiting this right is a lost opportunity, and the right to request flexible working arrangements should be available to all workers.
Additionally, the Bill will see the introduction of paid leave for victims of domestic violence – a very significant breakthrough. Once enacted, those who are suffering or at risk of domestic violence will be entitled to five days of paid leave per year. We had advocated for 10 days in our submission to the consultation on the Bill and note that as part of a review within two years that consideration will be given to increasing the entitlement to 10 days leave.
The right for employers to request “reasonable” proof is problematic in our view and could act as a potential barrier to reporting and increased risk for people experiencing domestic violence. Congress would prefer the legislation to be silent on the issue of proof which could also be a significant burden on employers required to adjudicate on such matters.
Finally, we welcome the recognition of the need for such leave to be integrated into a wider Domestic Violence Employer Policy. Trade unions have been breaking ground here in negotiating such policies with employers and we look forward to further involvement in this area.
The recent announcement is hugely significant and Minister O’Gorman is to be commended for bringing it to this stage. It is also significant in the context of the signalled ratification before the end of the year of ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work which recognises that domestic violence can impact the world of work and requires governments to take appropriate measures to recognise the effects of domestic violence and, so far as is reasonably practicable, mitigate its impact in the world of work.
REACTION from Moira Grassick, COO at Peninsula Ireland
Moira Grassick, COO at Peninsula Ireland, says “This is a very new and unique piece of legislation which will give an employee a period of recognised leave in certain circumstances.
“These changes will likely do much to support working parents and carers in the workplace, and provide an equal playing field for staff, regardless of their responsibilities outside of work.
“Particularly, the measure to provide paid leave for victims of domestic violence will be a positive and progressive step to provide real, meaningful support to workers experiencing this.
“Currently, victims and survivors could be at a detriment in work if they have taken time off or if their productivity has been affected. But this new law, coupled with other support measures like access to counselling and an employee assistance programme, will go a long way in alleviating the stresses and turbulence faced by an employee experiencing domestic violence.
“It is important to make this new legislation known to staff and to foster a culture of open communication whereby employees who are experiencing domestic abuse can feel comfortable to talk to their managers about it.
“Employers will need to work the legislation into existing work patterns, people management systems and business strategies. If this draft bill is passed with no further amendments, and passed as expected before the year is out, this legislation, once enacted, will require substantial amendments to core employee related documents such as the Employee Handbook where everyone will need to be clear from both the employer and employees’ sides as to what exactly is involved”.
“It may be beneficial to ensure that managers get specific training on how to effectively manage these sorts of situations, including how to sensitively approach conversations, and how to apply the new entitlements fairly and compliantly.”