The European Union (Parental Leave) Regulations 2013 were signed into law on 8 March 2013. The new Regulations provide further enhanced family friendly rights for parents as the Government and employers try to deal with the challenge of providing working parents with increased flexibility in the work place.
The key changes are as follows:
An increase in the amount of leave from 14 working weeks to 18 working weeks per parent per child up to the age of 8 years (16 in the case where a child has a long term illness or has a disability).
The right of employees returning from parental leave to request a change in their working hours or patterns or both for a set period. Employers must consider this but do not have to grant this request.
The position on the transferability of leave remains the same with employees now allowed to transfer 14 of the 18 weeks to another parent but only where they both work for the same employer. The Directive states that leave is an individual right and it should be taken by each parent individually however it does allow for Member States to make leave transferable. It had been thought that the Irish Government was going to allow for the transferability of leave between parents however they have maintained its legislative position in relation to leave only being transferred where employees work for the same employer.
Earlier this year there had been plans for amendments to the Parental Leave legislation to be incorporated by way of a new Family Leave Bill. This had been proposed to consolidate all family leave legislation. However given the deadline for transposition, the Government implemented the changes by way of secondary legislation in the form of a Statutory Instrument. The latest update is that the Family Leave Bill is expected to be published in early 2014.
Tips for employers:
Employers should review their employee contracts, employee handbooks and parental leave policies to ensure that the legislative changes are reflected in these documents.