The Act provides new rights for employees to help them balance their work life, family life and caring responsibilities. The new measures, which employers will need to comply with, include:
- Right to request remote working arrangements: The draft scheme for the right to request remote working bill 2022 was published in early 2022. However, the scheme was widely criticised on the basis of employers having very broad grounds to refuse remote work requests. The Government has scrapped the draft scheme and has instead incorporated a revised right to request working into the above Bill. Under the terms of the Bill, employees who have at least six months’ continuous service will have the right to request remote working arrangements. The request must be submitted in writing at least eight weeks prior to the proposed start date of the remote working arrangement and must include certain information, such as the reasons for requesting the arrangement. Employers must respond to the request within four weeks of receiving it (which can be extended in certain circumstances) and if the request is rejected, the employee will be entitled to know the grounds on which the refusal is based. If an employer breaches its requirements relating to this right, the employee could be entitled to up to four weeks’ remuneration.
- Right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes: Employees who are parents of children up to twelve years old (or sixteen years old if the child has a disability or long-term illness) will have the right to request flexible working arrangements. This also applies to employees who provide care to another individual who they are in a specified relationship with (i.e. a spouse, civil partner, parent, sibling or person residing in the same house as the employee). To be able to request flexible work arrangements, the employee must have at least six months’ continuous service and must provide employers with at least eight weeks’ notice prior to when they wish the arrangement to begin.
If an employer breaches its requirements relating to this right, the employee could be awarded up to 20 weeks’ remuneration.
- Paid domestic violence leave: Employees who are victims of domestic violence will be entitled to five days of paid leave in each twelve-month period. The leave will enable employees to seek medical attention, access legal advice and engage with other specialist support services. The daily rate of pay will be prescribed by regulations (which have not yet been enacted).
- Unpaid leave for medical purposes: Employees will be entitled to five days of unpaid medical leave in each twelve-month period to provide significant care or support for someone who is in a specified relationship with the employee and is suffering from a serious medical condition. There is no minimum service requirement to take this leave.
- Enhanced breastfeeding rights: The breastfeeding facilitation period will be extended from 26 weeks to 104 weeks following the birth of the child. Employees will be able to benefit from reduced working hours or paid time off to breastfeed. This right is also extended to transgender men who may have given birth and are breastfeeding.
What should employers do now?
Employers should ensure their employment documents and practices comply with the Bill and look out for the Workplace Relations Commission Code of Practice on remote working, which will include further guidance in this area. Please get in touch with a member of the ONE team if you require any further information on this or need any support with updating your employment documents accordingly.