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Family Law Update - upcoming legislation on family leave.

10 Sep 2018

Aoife O’Donovan

Aoife O’Donovan, Senior Consultant with Brightwater’s HR division has put together a few points to help HR professionals keep on top of legislation regarding family leave.

Recently I attended a HR Forum hosted by IBEC. In the ever changing world of human resources, it’s important for HR professionals to keep on top of legislation that affects employees and therefore their organisation as a whole. For me, it was an invaluable opportunity to gain more information that I can then discuss with my clients and candidates.

Rhona Murphy, Head of Employment Law Services was giving an update on the Employment (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill 2017. We were then given an update on both recent and upcoming legislation regarding family leave by Pauline O’Hare of IBEC which is something that many HR managers are dealing with on a daily basis.

The amendment to the bill proposes;

  • To extend the period of unpaid parental leave to which a relevant parent is entitled from 18 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • Increase the qualifying age of the child in respect of which leave can be taken from 8 years to 12 years
  • That the proposed legislation will take effect 3 months after the passing of the Act

The government supports the proposed legislation but has raised its concerns, as has IBEC that the 8 weeks is not on a phased basis. Ibec has submitted that this will mainly impact SMEs who will be adversely affected by the proposed legislation, given that the key skills within a business will need to be replaced, at short notice up to a period of 26 weeks. This is already a challenge for SMEs where the period of leave available is 18 weeks, particularly where the grounds for postponing are limited. 

Difficulties for employers include;

  • Re-allocating duties to other employees. This will pose particular challenges for SMEs where there may be no employees to carry out the duties
  • Adverse burden is only heightened by the proposed provisions of the Employment (misc. provisions) Bill 2017, which will decrease flexible working arrangements for both employers and employees.
  • Arranging cover on a fixed term basis is difficult where an employer must replace specific niche skills at short notice giving rise to an unforeseen difference in hiring budgets.
  • This will be even more difficult where the Dept. of Justice and Equality has proposed, in the draft Heads of Family Leave Bill, reducing the notice period under the parental leave acts from 6 weeks to 4 weeks.

It is expected that the bill will go before the Seanad in the autumn. The Dept. of Justice and Equality has published draft Heads of Bill proposing to consolidate with amendments, the existing provisions of the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004, the Adoptive Leave Acts 995 and 2005, the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006 and the Carers Leave act 2001.  Ibec has submitted that it is concerned that the proposed amendments constitute fundamental changes to the substance of each Act, which go beyond any technical changes necessary to consolidate the Acts.

Aoife O’Donovan is Senior Consultant with Brightwater’s HR division. She works on a range of permanent, temporary and contract HR assignments, recruiting HR professionals at all levels into organisations.