12 June 2020
By Elaine Murphy
Support is needed now more than ever for employees looking for flexible working conditions.
This is according to Deirdre Clune, Ireland South MEP who said the pandemic situation has “clearly demonstrated that remote and flexible employment can work successfully.”
MEP Clune said: “A lot of women want to go back to work after having children but it can be hard managing family and work life for both men and women, especially during these times. That is why I am calling on businesses across Ireland to put in place supports for women and men and offer more options for flexible work practices should they require them. Many businesses have been fantastic to their employees during this Covid-19 crisis but we need to keep people in the workforce if we can and work together to achieve that.”
Last year the European Parliament approved an EU Directive on work-life balance. A requirement of the directive extends the right to flexible working arrangements, such as remote working for employees returning from parental leave. Member States, like Ireland have three years to implement this Directive.
The parental Leave and benefit Bill 2019 was a part of implementing this – increasing the amount of leave that can be taken by parents both paid and unpaid and this came into force on 1st November last.
Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune said: “A major element in this directive from the European Parliament is the right for parents to request flexible working arrangements, such as remote working. Many companies in Ireland already offer employees the option of remote working but this directive goes further to ensure that employees have the right to specifically request it. It is now more important than ever that employees are given the option of flexible work.
“Under normal circumstances, each summer as schools close, parents come under pressure to seek childcare arrangements. These new arrangements will really help parents looking for some flexibility when it comes to working arrangements. We need to keep parents in the workforce.”
The CSO recently said that one in ten women in receipt of maternity benefit in 2018 did not return to paid employment in 2019. This varied from 31.4% for those in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing to 1.2% in Public Administration and Defence. The CSO also said that the likelihood of a woman returning to paid employment drops with each additional child, particularly for those who have had four or more children.
In Ireland employees returning to work after parental leave may seek a change in their work hours but an employer can refuse this request. This new directive from the European Parliament will extend the scope of flexible working arrangements which can be requested, by adding the option to request remote working.
MEP Clune said: “The aim of this directive is to improve access to work-life balance arrangements. The workplace can be an exciting and exhilarating place. However it can also be a challenging place. What many people will struggle with is getting their work/life balance right. We have done a lot of work at the European Parliament on the promotion of a good work/life balance.”