Having been ratified in 2019, the EU’s Directive on Work-life Balance officially entered into the EU’s official journal in July 2022.
That Directive, which strengthens the rights of parents to paternity leave, parental leave, flexible working arrangements for parents, and carers’ leave, must be implemented by the Government within the next three years.
On parental leave, the Directive states that two months’ parental leave will be made transferable from one parent to another, with a level of compensation to be mandated by individual member states. The Irish Government does not currently mandate an employer to pay parental leave, with parents entitled to up to 26 weeks’ unpaid parental leave, with the onus falling on the employer as to whether they will be paid or not. The Directive will allow parents to be flexible in how they take their leave, including piecemeal or part-time.
With regard to paternity leave, the legislation in place in the State – the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 – has guaranteed a right to paternity leave for new parents but fell short of obliging employers to pay their workers availing of paternity leave, with the Government subsidising the leave through paternity benefit.
The Directive will ensure that workers on paternity leave will earn a level of pay which at least matches statutory sick pay, currently €203 per week, for the duration of their leave.
The Directive also aims to strengthen flexible working arrangements for working parents, by extending the right to request to all working parents who have children aged eight and younger.
Workers who have a relative or person living in the same household who requires care will be entitled to at least five working days’ paid leave. There is currently no state support for full-time carers who are in full-time employment, with a cap on payments of €224 per week for carers who are below the pension age, although they can only receive this amount if they have no income from any other source. Full-time carers are currently not permitted to receive state support if they are working more than 18.5 hours per week.
The Directive further states that member states’ governments should protect the right of workers to return to the same or an equivalent post after taking any of these leaves and retain entitlement to relevant rights already acquired, or in the process of being acquired, until the end of such leave.