1 September 2020
By Tom Collins
Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019
Ireland South MEP Deidre Clune has welcomed the increase in unpaid parental leave for families around the country. The change in legislation will allow for an increase in unpaid parental leave from 22 weeks to 26 weeks per parent per child under 12 years. This is increased to 16 years where a child has a disability. The changes come into force on 1st September.
MEP Clune said that these changes will help to support families at this time. She said they are very welcome as families try to balance home and work life.
MEP Clune also said that support is needed now more than ever for employees looking for flexible working conditions. MEP Clune said that as children head back to school this week businesses need to support women and men in the workforce as many will need flexibility when it comes to sickness and keeping children at home if necessary. MEP Clune added that the current pandemic situation has “clearly demonstrated that remote and flexible employment can work successfully.”
MEP Clune said: “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, especially now as schools reopen to put in place supports for employees 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.”
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.”