More family-friendly benefits on the way The announcement of a paid parental leave scheme in last year’s budget (to commence in November this year) signaled the government’s intention to bolster employee family leave entitlements. With a proposal to extend unpaid parental leave moving a step closer to signing off into law and agreement at EU level on a series of work-life balance initiatives, the Irish workplace looks set to be more family-friendly in the near future. Extension of unpaid parental leave A draft law proposing to extend the duration of unpaid parental leave moved a step closer to enactment in recent weeks. The Seanad passed the Social Democrat’s Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 (the Bill) with certain amendments on the 8 May 2019. The Bill will return to the Dáil for final approval and enactment before the summer recess. Existing entitlement to unpaid parental leave Under existing parental leave laws, employees can claim up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave subject to the condition that the child is under the age of 8 (or under the age of 16 if the child has a long term illness). The Bill proposes extending the duration of unpaid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks and extending the qualifying age from 8 to 12. The government intends to phase the 8-week extension over two years with the first 4 weeks becoming available from September 2019 and the full 8 weeks from September 2020. Paid parental leave The paid parental leave scheme announced in last year’s budget will initially be for a two-week period per parent. They must take that within 52 weeks of the birth of the child. Or in the case of adoption, the date of placement of the child. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will pay an associated state benefit payment of €245 per week. The paid parental leave scheme is an additional benefit to existing family-friendly state benefits. EU work-life balance directive The European Parliament and the Council have also reached a provisional agreement on proposals for a new EU Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers. The Directive on work-life balance sets a number of new or higher standards for parental, paternity and carer's leave, and the right to request flexible working arrangements. It takes account of the needs of small and medium-sized companies and makes sure that they are not disproportionately affected. Family-friendly work culture It is apparent that political will exists both at EU and domestic levels to foster a more family-friendly work culture. As modern life becomes increasingly demanding for parents of young children, the introduction of agile or flexible work arrangements encourages a more balanced distribution of caring responsibilities between mothers and fathers of young children. In the long-term, this approach contributes to the workplace as a work/life balance initiative, a means of tackling the gender pay gap and a way to minimise the negative impacts of maternity leave on women’s long-term contributions to the business. Need our help on this? If you have any questions in relation to family-friendly work practices, please contact Peninsula’s expert employment law advisors on 1890 252 923. Or if you would like one of our advisors to call you back, fill in your details here.