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Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023

The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 (the “Act”) was signed into law by the President on 4th April 2023. It transposes the EU Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers and provides for the introduction of new rights for employees which are designed to support a better balance between family life, work life, and caring responsibilities.

The key changes addressed by the Act are outlined below under the following headings:

  1. The right to request remote working;
  2. The right to request flexible working for caring purposes;
  3. Domestic Violence Leave;
  4. Leave for Medical Care Purposes;
  5. Extension of breastfeeding facilitation period.

The Right to Request Remote Working

The Scheme for the Right to Request Remote Working Bill was published in early 2022, however it was ultimately decided to incorporate aspects of the Bill into the Act.

The Act provides that any employee can make a request for a remote working arrangement. There is no service requirement for making a remote working request, but the Act provides that a remote working arrangement, if agreed, will commence once an employee has at least 6 months continuous service with their employer. The Act broadly defines remote working as “an arrangement whereby some or all of the work ordinarily carried out by an employee at an employer’s place of business under a contract of employment is provided at a location other than at the employer’s place of business without change to the employee’s ordinary working hours or duties”.

Employee Requirements

It is a requirement that any request by an employee for a remote working arrangement:

  1. Be in writing and signed by the employee;
  2. Specify the details of the proposed arrangement, the proposed date of commencement and, where applicable, expiration of the remote working arrangement;
  3. Specify, having regard to the Workplace Relations Commission Code of Practice (which is yet to be published):
    • the reasons for requesting a remote working arrangement i.e. “the employee’s needs”
    • details of the proposed remote working location and
    • information as may be specified in the Code of Practice on the suitability of the proposed remote working location.
  4. Be submitted as soon as reasonably practicable, but not later than 8 weeks before the proposed commencement of the remote working arrangement.

Employer Obligations

An employer must respond to a request as soon as is reasonably practicable but not later than 4 weeks after receiving the request. This may be extended to 8 weeks, where the employer is having difficulty in assessing the viability of the request.

The employer is obliged to consider the request having regard to his/her needs, the employee’s needs, and the requirements of the Code of Practice (yet to be published).

Should an employer approve a request, then such approval must include the agreement prepared and signed by the employer and employee setting out the details of the arrangement, the date of commencement and the date of expiration, if any. 

If, on the other hand, an employer refuses a request for a remote working arrangement, the employee must be provided with a notice in writing of the refusal and the reasons for the refusal.

The Right to Request Flexible Working for Caring Purposes

Under the Act, an employee now has the right to request a flexible working arrangement in instances where:

  1. They are a parent and are providing care for a child under 12 years of age or under 16 years of age where they are suffering from a disability or long-term illness.
  1. They are providing personal care or support to a concerned person for medical care purposes. This applies to a child, spouse/civil partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent and sibling of the employee and any person not specified with whom the employee lives in the same household. This category is distinct from (1) above as the concerned person must require the care and support of the employee for a serious medical reasons.

As with the right to request remote working, there is no service requirement for making a flexible working request, but the Act provides that such an arrangement, if agreed, will commence once an employee has at least 6 months continuous service with their employer.

In making such a request, an employee must follow a similar same procedure as required for a remote working arrangement request. An employer may require the employee to provide certain information that is reasonably required in relation to the person in respect of whom the request is made.

Domestic Violence Leave

Domestic violence leave is a new form of leave introduced by the Act. The purpose of the leave is to allow an employee to seek medical attention; obtain services from a victim services organisation; obtain psychological or other professional counselling; relocate temporarily or permanently; obtain an order under the Domestic Violence Act 2018; seek assistance from a lawyer or the Garda Siochana; seek or obtain any other relevant service.

The Act provides for a maximum of 5 days’ leave within a 12-month period and the employee must inform their employer as soon as reasonably practicable that the leave was domestic violence leave.

An employer will be required to pay an employee during any such period of leave, with rates to be fixed by Ministerial Regulations.

Leave for Medical Care Purposes

The Act introduces a new right to unpaid leave for the purpose of providing personal care or support to a person who is their child, spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parents, grandparent, sibling or other person who resides in the same household as the employee. The person must be in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason.

The leave is capped at 5 days in any period of 12 consecutive months and shall not be taken as a period of less than one day.

The employee is required, when taking leave for this purpose, to confirm to their employer as soon as reasonably practicable, the date and duration of the leave and provide a statement of facts entitling the employee to the leave. This confirmation must be in prescribed form and must be signed by the employee. An employee may also be required to provide certain further information that their employer may reasonable require in relation to his or her request, as specified in the Act.

Extension of Breastfeeding Facilitation Period

The Act has amended certain provisions of the Maternity Protection Act 1994, extending the period during which an employee is entitled to paid time off work or reduced working hours for breastfeeding purposes from 26 weeks to 104 weeks.

The Act also extends access to maternity leave to  transgender men who have given birth and are breastfeeding.

Takeaway for Employers:

While Regulations and a WRC Code of Practice are awaited, employers should review their existing policies and procedures and amend and add to them to ensure that they are in compliance with the requirements introduced.

Link – https://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2023/act/8/enacted/en/pdf

Authors – Ethna Dillon, Jenny Wakely and Anne O’Connell

19 April 2023

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

19-22 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2


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