What changes would new work-life balance legislation make?

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman is set to seek Cabinet approval for the outline of a new Bill on work-life balance.

The legislation – the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill – is being brought forward to give effect to an EU work-life balance directive which has to be transposed by August 2nd this year.

So, what changes would the proposed legislation make?

I know what work-life balance is but what is this new legislation?
Proposed legislation at this stage. It’s simply the Government sketching out how it intends to formalise European mandated rights, specifically the work-life balance directive, which must become law by early August.

Oh, so this is the whole ‘working from home’ thing then?
No, that is different legislation fuelled by the sweeping changes to work practices brought around by Covid-19. The Work-Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill is similar though, in that it also proposes dramatic changes to the rights of workers of the kind that might once have been thought unimaginable.

Sounds intense. Like how?
Well, there are several headline grabbers but let’s start with the basics. Changes to existing parental leave laws would mean employees with children up to the age of 12 could request flexible working arrangements including reduced hours, as can carers. It would allow them take five days of unpaid leave per year. It would also usher in five days annual leave for serious medical care.

Hardly revolutionary, though, is it?
Some might disagree. But there are more eye-catching measures – for instance the duration in which time can be taken out from work to breastfeed will be extended from the current six months to two years. And provisions will be made to ensure maternity leave is available to transgender men who obtain a gender recognition certificate and subsequently give birth.

Is that everything?
Not quite, some measures are still being worked out and could be introduced at a later stage. For instance, the Government is keen to bring in paid leave for victims of domestic violence.

But apart from that, we now have all of these rights?
No, not yet. As I said, the EU demands are that we have them in law by early August but it should happen sooner. Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman brought his proposals to Cabinet on Wednesday and they must now go to the Attorney General for formal drafting. Sounds time consuming, and it sometimes is, but the expectation is everything will be in place before the summer.

And is everybody happy about this new working environment?
Of course not. There is a general sense that Ireland must continue to move toward improved conditions but of course reaction depends on how each measure effects all of those concerned. For instance, while unions will no doubt welcome aspects of the bill, business groups have expressed concerns it will lead to increased costs.

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