The Irish government recently approved the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2023 which introduces a right to request flexible working arrangements, five days of government-paid domestic violence leave, and five days of unpaid carer’s leave (called “serious medical care leave”). The Bill is currently in its third reading before the Irish parliament and is expected to enter into force in the near term (the exact date is yet to be determined).

Latest update: On 4 April 2023, the President of Ireland signed legislation implementing EU Directive No. 2019/1158 on work-life balance for parents and carers. While the legislation has been signed into law, relevant provisions will come into effect in a staggered manner. The changes in relation to leave for medical purposes and the extension of breastfeeding breaks entered into effect on 3 July 2023. The other provisions of the Act are expected to enter into effect before the end of the year 2023. The Lockton Global People Solutions Compliance team will update this alert once more details are released.

Key details

Flexible working arrangements

While remote working arrangements may be requested by any employee (Lockton Global Compliance Alert, February 2022), flexible working arrangements are limited to employees caring for:

  • a child under age 12, or 16 if the child has a disability, and within two years of adoption if the child has been adopted between ages 10 and 12,
  • a spouse, cohabitant, parent, grand-parent, or sibling,
  • a person with a serious medical issue who resides with the employee and needs their care or support.

After six months of service, employees with caring responsibilities will have the right to request flexible working arrangements related to the place and hours of work, telework, and conversion to part-time work. Employees must submit a written request explaining the reasons for the request at least eight weeks before the proposed start date of the flexible working arrangement.

Employers must respond in writing within four weeks (an extension of an additional four weeks is possible) and leave may be refused with adequate justification. Appropriate reasons for refusal have not yet been defined, however, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is expected to draft a Code of Practice outlining them for flexible working arrangements, as well as for remote work. The WRC will be able to decide on claims involving terminations of flexible working arrangements and remote work. Claims relating to the grounds of refusal of flexible and remote working requests can be brought by the employee to the competent labor court.

Domestic violence leave

The Bill introduces a five-day employer-paid leave for issues relating to the employee, or a “relevant person” to the employee, who is suffering from or at risk of domestic violence. A “relevant person” is defined under the Bill as the employee’s spouse or civil partner, their cohabitant, their child or dependent, or someone who is in an intimate relationship with the employee. The leave aims to enable the victim of domestic abuse to take necessary actions, such as arranging for their safety or attending court hearings, medical, counseling, or legal appointments. The leave applies to both fixed-term and part-time employees once in any 12-month period. Upcoming government regulations are expected to prescribe the new leave’s daily pay rate.

Serious medical care leave

While employees are already entitled to a long-term carer’s leave under the Carer’s Leave Act 2001, this flexible carer’s leave was introduced to meet the local legislation requirements ofthe European Union Directive No. 2019/1158 of 20 June 2019 on a better work-life balance for parents and carers. Employees will be allowed to request an unpaid carer’s leave for a maximum of five working days per calendar year to care for seriously ill family members and persons living in their households. Employees may not take the leave in periods shorter than one day, and employers will be allowed to request evidence of the employee’s relationship to the person needing their care.

Other measures

Breastfeeding breaks

Nursing employees will be allowed to take paid breastfeeding breaks (one hour per day) for a total period of two years following childbirth instead of the current 26 weeks.   

Transgender employees

The Bill extends maternity leave entitlements to transgender men who become pregnant and hold a gender recognition certificate in compliance with the Gender Recognition Act 2015.

Next steps

Because the deadline to meet the local legislation requirements of EU Work Life Balance Directive has passed, it is expected that the bill will be fast-tracked.

Upon passage, employers should update their HR policies and procedures accordingly to ensure full compliance with the new rules.