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11th Jun 2022

The new proposed Work Life Balance Bill is a game-changer for parents

Trine Jensen-Burke

Work Life Balance Bill

Sick child leave, flexible working and more support for single parents.

The joint committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has published its pre-legislative scrutiny report on the proposed Work Life Balance Bill.

The Bill, which was brought to Cabinet by Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman and approved back in April, aims to bring the European Union’s work-life balance directive into Irish law.

The directive, which all member states must incorporate, aims to ensure a better work-life balance for parents and carers, as well as encourage a more equal sharing of parental leave between men and women.

Benefits to families, workers and single parents

The committee recommended ‘sick child leave’ and ten days domestic violence leave as part of the Bill.

As well as that, it was also recommended that lone parents should be entitled to ten days leave for medical care purposes, double the usual amount to account for the absent parent, and that the relevant Departments working with lone parents, should develop other targeted supports for single parent families.

The legislation is also expected to extend entitlement to paid breastfeeding/lactation breaks from the current six months to two years.

The new Bill also seeks to address women’s underrepresentation in the Irish labour market, with a special focus on the right to remote and/or flexible working.

It said the Bill should recognise and allow for applications for a wide variety of work arrangements, including remote working and compressed hours.

Speaking on the report, Deputy Kathleen Funchion, Cathaoirleach of the Committee, welcomed the opportunity to engage in the pre-legislative scrutiny process for the Bill and said she supports many of the provisions it contains.

“The Bill, which transposes an EU Directive on work-life balance, is timely and welcome,” Funchion told The Journal.

“Covid-19 created a greater need for flexible working arrangements. Drawing on the lessons learnt from that period should be key to our approach to issues around caring, disability and equality going forward.”

Funchion said the recommendations aim to enhance leave and flexible work policies further, in line with best practice.

“It is important to note that the initiatives proposed under this Bill must be met with improvements in the provision of accessible and affordable childcare and other care services.”

It is intended that the legislation will be passed and enacted before the Dáil’s summer recess.