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Ireland: New Employment Rights and Entitlements in Force from 3 July 2023

The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 (the “Act”) was designed to give effect to Directive (EU) 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and Council of 20 June 2019 on work-life balance for parents and carers.  The Act is significant in its effect as it amends a range of domestic legislation including the Parental Leave Act 1998, the Redundancy Payments Act 1967, the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, the Maternity Protection Act 1994, the Adoptive Leave Act 1995, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, and the Workplace Relations Act 2015.

The Act was enacted on 4 April 2023, but the first provisions of the Act, as outlined in this article, only came into force on 3 July 2023.  The Act also provides for a number of other significant rights and entitlements for employees (e.g. the introduction of domestic violence leave, a right to request remote working and a right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes), all of which are expected to come into force before the end of this year.

Medical Care Leave

The new Act provides that employees are entitled to leave without pay from their employment, known as medical care leave, for the purposes of providing personal care or support to a person such as a child, spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, or a person other than one who resides in the same household as the employee.  The person to whom personal care or support is being provided must need significant care or support for a serious medical reason.  An employee is now entitled to up to 5 days unpaid leave in any period of 12 consecutive months and the leave is not to be taken for a period of less than one day.

Employers can request of employee’s certain information as reasonably required by them:

  • the employee’s relationship with the person in respect of whom the leave for medical care purposes is proposed to be taken or was taken, as the case may be,
  • the nature of the personal care or support required to be given by the employee to the person concerned, and
  • relevant evidence such as medical certificate relating to the need of the person for the significant care or support concerned.

Breastfeeding Entitlements

Employees who are breastfeeding are entitled, without reduction of pay, to avail of either time off from work for the purpose of breastfeeding in the workplace or a reduction in working hours for the purpose of breastfeeding otherwise than in the workplace, for a period of 104 weeks (two years) post-birth as opposed to the previous period of 26 weeks (6 months).  Employees can avail of up to one hour per day for the purpose of breastfeeding in their workplace without reduction of pay.  Alternatively, employees can reduce their working day by one hour for the purpose of breastfeeding in a place otherwise than in the workplace.

Maternity Leave Access

Existing maternity protection legislation has been amended to now ensure transgender men who have obtained a gender recognition certificate and subsequently given birth fall within its scope and can avail of the employment law protections surrounding maternity leave.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel

Employers should review and update their employee/HR policies to ensure that they reflect the newly introduced statutory rights and entitlements.