Irish employers face legal, business and reputational risk if they are not in compliance with recently introduced and upcoming protective leave legislation. That was the consensus at a roundtable discussion on the topic ‘Work-Life Integration – Protective Leave and Flexible Working Arrangements’ in William Fry’s Grand Canal office.
Under new legislation, which came into effect at the start of the month, the amount of parental leave that a parent can take per child has increased from 18 weeks to 22 weeks. In September 2020, this entitlement will increase to 26 weeks. The age of a child in respect of whom leave can be taken has also increased from 8 years to 12 years. The EU has also recently approved a Directive on Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers.
Alicia Compton, Employment & Benefits Partner at William Fry, noted: “The most significant impact of this development from an Irish perspective will be the introduction of the right of parents and carers to request flexible working arrangements. Ireland will need to introduce legislative changes to put structure around the application process and the extent to which an employee may have the right to enforce a reasonable request for flexible working arrangements. Employers will need to scrutinise the Irish legislation to ensure compliance.”
Ben Conway, Senior Associate in William Fry’s Employment & Benefits team, added: “We would advise all Irish employers to introduce a flexible working policy if they do not already have one in place. A robust policy should clearly outline how requests for flexible working arrangements will operate in practice. We recommend that employers consider any request in a reasonable and consistent manner before making a final decision.”
The Government has said that it will introduce a Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 which will make provision for two weeks of parental leave benefit (to increase to seven weeks) to be taken by a parent during the first year of their child’s life. This would be separate and additional to any maternity, adoptive or paternity benefit. A breach of the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2019 could result in employers having to pay impacted employees’ compensation of up to 20 weeks’ remuneration.
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