On the 3rd of July 2023, a significant milestone in employment legislation was achieved with the enactment of the ‘Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023’. This legislation introduces several important provisions aimed at promoting employee well-being and safeguarding their rights in the workplace.
One of the standout features of this act is the establishment of two new special leave forms that address critical areas of concern: Medical Care Leave and Domestic Violence Leave. There is also an amendment to Breastfeeding Entitlements for employees.
1. Medical Care Leave
The 2023 Act acknowledges the significance of individuals who provide “significant care or support” for someone for a “serious medical purpose.” This provision extends to various relationships, including;
- civil partners,
- persons residing in the same house,
- grandparents, and
Under this Act, employees have the right to avail themselves of up to 5 working days per year as Medical Care Leave. However, it’s important to note that this leave is unpaid.
Employers have the right to request reasonable information regarding the nature of the relationship and the specific care needs. This requirement ensures that the provision is not exploited and that the leave is genuinely used for its intended purpose.
2. Domestic Violence Leave
The 2023 Act marks the introduction of Domestic Violence Leave into Irish Employment Law. This provision aims to support employees who have experienced or are currently experiencing domestic abuse.
Employees are eligible for up to 5 working days off per year for this purpose. Unlike Medical Care Leave, Domestic Violence Leave is paid.
This financial support seems to reflect an effort by the Irish Government to facilitate victims in accessing assistance and encouraging others to do the same. It also serves as a recognition of the diverse aspects of a victim’s life that can be impacted by domestic violence, including their career.
The purpose of this leave is extensive and includes;
- seeking medical attention,
- psychological counselling,
- legal assistance,
- relocation, and
- obtaining orders under the Domestic Violence Act 2018.
After taking domestic violence leave, the employee must promptly notify the employer. They must also fill out a required form, which the employer may provide, confirming the leave and specifying the dates it was taken.
3. Breastfeeding Entitlements
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 also introduces significant amendments to the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 to 2022, regarding employee’s breastfeeding entitlements.
Previously, breastfeeding entitlements were provided for 26 weeks post-birth. However, with the enactment of the Act, this period has been extended to an impressive 104 weeks post-birth.
The Act also outlines that an employee can take either:
- A 60-minute paid break each working day, either taken in full or split throughout the day
- A 60-minute reduction in working hours per day, with pay, which can be split to accommodate the employee’s needs.
Furthermore, the 2023 Act ensures that part-time employees are not disregarded, as it stipulates that these entitlements are to be allocated to them proportionally.
Employers are also mandated to provide appropriate facilities for breastfeeding within the workplace, unless doing so incurs an unreasonable financial burden on them. This aims to ensure that working mothers have a conducive environment to tend to their breastfeeding requirements.
Employees are required to provide their employer with written notice when opting to utilize these breastfeeding entitlements.
Additionally, employees may be requested to provide evidence of their child’s date of birth to validate their claim for these provisions.