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'Sick child leave' and ten days domestic violence leave recommended for Work Life Balance Bill

The Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth today published its pre-legislative scrutiny report on the Bill.

Image: Shutterstock/Aleksandra Suzi

THE JOINT COMMITTEE on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has recommended a new ‘sick child leave’ and ten days domestic violence leave as part of the proposed Work Life Balance Bill.

The committee today published its pre-legislative scrutiny report on the Bill, which aims to bring the European Union’s work-life balance directive into Irish law.

A draft of the Bill was brought to Cabinet by Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman and approved in April

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

It also seeks to address women’s underrepresentation in the labour market.

The committee recommended that there should be a statutory right to “reasonable access to flexible working” for all.

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

This is separate to the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s legislation, which gives employees the right to request remote working.

It recommended that a payment or allowance be provided for leave for medical care purposes in all cases.

The committee 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.

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.

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

As discussed in this report, flexible working arrangements offer many benefits for employees and employers and are important tools for better enabling women and people with disabilities to work, for promoting gender equality, and work life balance and improving child and family wellbeing.

“The newly published Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment evaluation of Remote Working found that remote working, for instance, improves labour market outcomes for both people with disabilities and caring responsibilities and is likely to have a positive impact on the Irish economy and society generally.”

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.

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Jane Moore

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