Work Life Balance & Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022

3rd April 2023

Posted In: The Topic

Minister Roderic O’Gorman has welcomed the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 passing all Stages in the Oireachtas.

The Bill provides for the introduction of new rights for employees to support a better balance of family life, work life and caring responsibilities. The Bill also seeks to support those who are victims of domestic violence through the introduction of a statutory paid leave entitlement of five days.

The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 introduces:

•5 days unpaid leave for medical care purposes for parents of children under 12, and carers

•5 days paid leave for victims of domestic violence

•the right to request flexible working for parents and carers

•the right to request remote working for all employees

•2 years breastfeeding breaks

Minister O’Gorman said: “The Work Life Balance Bill represents a significant advance in workers’ rights in Ireland. It recognises the importance of family life and an improved quality of life for all workers, by supporting employees to achieve a better balance between their home lives and work lives.

The passing of this Bill introduces a statutory entitlement to carer’s leave, the right to request flexible and remote working, and makes breastfeeding breaks a reality for women returning to work from maternity leave.”

Minister O’Gorman went on to say:

“The introduction of domestic violence leave under this Bill is particularly important. Ireland is one of the first countries to introduce statutory domestic violence leave and I believe that this will make a real and meaningful difference for victims of domestic violence.

Crucially, it will support those who are victims of domestic violence to leave abusive relationships. This leave was an important commitment in the Programme for Government and I hope it will lead to greater awareness of domestic violence in all its forms.”

The Bill will now go to the President to be signed into law.

Reaction and Comments:

Responding to the passing of the Work-Life Balance Bill by both Houses of the Oireachtas, Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Owen Reidy said:

“This important legislation delivers a suite of measures to make it easier for workers to combine their professional and personal lives.

“Improved family leave and flexibility on when and how we work is good for workers and families. It is good for businesses that get to retain valuable and often highly-trained staff. It is good for society and for the economy too. It will help close the gender gaps in caring, pay, and pensions. It is a win-win.

“As well as legislating improvements to support working parents and carers balance paid work with family care, necessitated to give effect to EU law, the Bill also introduces a new workers’ right to paid leave for victims of domestic violence and new rights for workers requesting remote work, both of which ICTU and affiliated unions campaigned for to bring us to this point today.”

Mr. Reidy said:

“Ireland is leading the way in bringing in paid leave for workers who are victims of domestic violence. However, if this new law is to do what is intended, workers must be paid their full wages during absences.

Anything less risks putting them in further danger. It is disappointing that the leave is for only 5 days. Unions will continue to collectively bargain workplace agreements – all of which provide for 10 days paid leave.”

Women’s Aid, a leading national organisation working to prevent and address the impact of domestic violence and abuse since 1974, has given a qualified welcome to the passing of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022.

However, Women’s Aid remains concerned that the rate of pay has not yet been determined by the Minister and if it is anything less that an employee’s full pay it could act as a deterrent rather than a support for victims of domestic abuse.

The organisation calls on Minister O’Gorman to prioritise the process outlined in the legislation to regulate and determine the rate of pay as a matter of urgency, and in a manner focused on victims/survivors needs, so that this law can take effect and make a real positive difference.

Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid says: “It is vitally important that this new leave is made as safe and supportive as possible. While we accept and appreciate the motivation and efforts of Minister O’Gorman in bringing this landmark legislation, the Minister has nonetheless created yet another process required to determine the rate of pay for this leave. This comes after many years awaiting the law, and a very significant and protracted consultation already undertaken. We have also made our recommendations on this matter very clear throughout this process. We had understood from recent public statements made by key Government figures, that the matter would be simply resolved within the legislation but now regulations are required, and the rate of pay has not yet been set. We hope therefore that there will be no delay to finalising this matter so the law can take effect.

Women’s Aid will continue to strongly advocate that this leave be at full pay to assure matters of victim/survivor safety, confidentiality, and equity. We further note and welcome strong support for this from Oireachtas members of all parties and none.”

A Gamechanger

Deirdre Malone, Partner and Head of Employment Law at EY Ireland commented that the new legislation will be a gamechanger in terms of employee rights.  The WRC has yet to publish the Code of Practice that will need to address what employers will have to consider when responding to requests (for remote working) from employees.  However, overall Deirdre sees the new legislation as better than earlier drafts and it makes sense to have remote working and flexible working addressed in one piece of legislation.

It’s much more satisfactory for all (employers and employees) to see remote working requests that will require an employer to consider their needs, their employees’ need and the requirement of the Code of Practice (yet to be published) when assessing applications. The financial penalty for failing to comply with the legislation is limited (4 weeks’ remuneration). The strength of this legislation is likely to be found in the employees’ responses to their requests. For example, an employer who fails to properly consider a request from an employee to work flexibly will more likely lose the employee than end up in the WRC.