What you need to know about the upcoming new rights conferred by the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023
Reading time: 2 mins
Certain Elements of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 to Come into Effect on 3rd
The Government has announced that certain new employment rights for parents and carers, conferred by the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 will come into effect on Monday, 3rd July 2023.
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 (“the 2023 Act”) was signed into law by the President on 4th April 2023, however, the Act must also be commenced by way of Commencement Order before it takes effect.
From Monday, 3rd July 2023, certain provisions in the 2023 Act, but not all of its provisions, will commence and the relevant provisions are outlined below. The right to request remote working, in relation to which we are waiting on a draft Code of Practice from the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will not take effect from 3rd July and will come into effect at a later date yet to be determined.
Extension to Breastfeeding Entitlements
The 2023 Act amends the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 to 2022 to extend the period during which employees who are breastfeeding are entitled to take daily breaks or to a reduction in their working hours for the purposes of breastfeeding a child or expressing breast milk from 26 weeks post-birth to 104 weeks (2 years) post-birth.
Employees who are breastfeeding are entitled, now for a period of up to 104 weeks post-birth to either of the following:
- Paid time off work as a break for the purposes of breastfeeding in their place of work for 1 hour each working day. The daily paid time off can take the form of one break of 60 minutes or as shorter breaks which together make up 60 minutes, as agreed between the employer and employee; or
- A reduction in working hours by 1 hour each working day without loss of pay for the purposes of breastfeeding outside of their place of work. The reduction in working hours without loss of pay can take the form of one period of 60 minutes or shorter periods which together make up 60 minutes, as agreed between the employer and employee.
Part-time employees who are breastfeeding are entitled breaks or a reduction in their working hours for the purposes of breastfeeding on a pro-rated basis.
Employees who are breastfeeding must give notice in writing to their employer of their intention to exercise their entitlement to take time off from work or have their working hours reduced for the purposes of breastfeeding. Employers are entitled to request evidence of the date of birth of the child of the breastfeeding employee.
Employers are obliged to provide appropriate facilities for breastfeeding in the workplace unless to do so would give rise to a cost for employers that is greater than a nominal cost.
Broadened Access to Maternity Leave
The 2023 further amends the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 to 2022 to extend the right of those who may take maternity leave to transgender men who have given birth.
Leave for Medical Care Purposes
The 2023 introduces a new leave which entitles employees to unpaid leave for up to 5 days in any period of 12 consecutive months for the purposes of providing personal care or support to persons specified in the 2023 Act. Such persons include the child, spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent, sibling or housemate of the employee who is in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason. An employee does not need to have met a particular service requirement before they are entitled to take leave for medical care purposes. Absence for part of a day is counted as one day of leave for medical care purposes.
If an employee has taken or intends to take leave for medical care purposes, they must confirm same with their employer as soon as reasonably practicable. The employee must provide signed confirmation in writing to their employer stating the date that the leave commenced or will commence, its duration, and the facts entitling the employee is entitled to take leave for medical care purposes. Employers are entitled to request evidence as to an employee’s relationship with the person for whom they take leave for medical care purposes, they nature of the care or support that is required and evidence relating to the need of the person for whom the leave was taken, such as a medical certificate.
Leave for medical care purposes is separate and distinct to Force Majeure Leave which entitles employees to paid leave of up to 3 days in any 12 consecutive months, or 5 days in any 36 consecutive months for urgent family reasons owing to the injury or illness of certain person, to include close family members.
Further Entitlements Yet to Come into Effect
As outlined above, the 2023 Act provides for several further new entitlements for employees that are expected to come into effect later in the year. These include:
- The right to request remote working arrangements
- All employees who have six months’ continuous service with their employer will have the right to request remote working arrangements and for that request to be dealt with in a transparent and expeditious manner. The preparation of a Code of Practice by the WRC is awaited prior to this entitlement coming into effect.
- The right of parents and carers to request flexible working arrangements
- Employees who have six months’ continuous service with their employer and who have caring responsibilities in respect of specified persons will have the right to request flexible working arrangements. The Government’s recent Press Release has indicated that the right of parents and carers to request flexible working arrangements will come into effect following the preparation of a Code of Practice by the WRC, as referred to above.
- Domestic violence leave
- Any employee who has experienced in the past, or is currently experiencing, domestic violence will have an entitlement to take leave for the purposes of seeking medical attention, psychological or other professional counselling, legal assistance, or any other relevant services that they may require. The entitlement also extends to employees to take domestic violence leave for the purposes of supporting certain defined people who are dependent on that employee to seek such relevant services. The entitlement is to up to five days paid leave in any 12 consecutive months. The rate of pay to which the employee will be entitled, which is to be paid by the employer, is yet to be determined. The Government has indicated that domestic violence leave will come into effect in the autumn.
Impact on Employers
All employers will now need to review policies and handbooks, if in place, to ensure they align with the changes brought about by the 2023 Act.
Our RDJ Employment Team will be happy to help with any queries.