Employers should note the following recent changes in the context of maternity, immigration and collective redundancies:

1. Longer maternity leave and benefit

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has announced provisions to extend the amount of maternity leave and benefit available to eligible employees whose babies are born prematurely. Currently employees are entitled to a basic maternity leave of 26 weeks which must commence 2 weeks before their due date. However, since 1 October 2017, longer leave (and benefit) is afforded where a baby is born early.

By way of example, if a baby is born 5 weeks before the maternity leave is due to start, the employee will be entitled to an additional 5 weeks maternity leave with State maternity benefit at the end of their basic 26 weeks of maternity leave. An employee's entitlement to opt for the additional 16 weeks' leave (which is unpaid by the State) is unaffected.

What does this mean for employers?

From a practical perspective, an employee's entitlement to further maternity leave in such circumstances will impact on their expected return to work date.

Employers should also be mindful of their contractual/policy commitments to paying employees during periods of ordinary maternity leave (i.e. that is covered by the State maternity benefit). Where an employer has committed to "topping up" maternity pay during the statutory period of ordinary leave, it is possible that this period of "top-up" will now be extended to reflect the additional period of leave granted to care for a premature baby.

Employers should update their maternity leave policy to reflect this new change to the law.

2. Changes to the notification procedures for collective redundancy

As of 1 September 2017, a number of functions relating to employment and labour related matters, previously the responsibility of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, have transferred to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This has resulted in a number of changes in the legislative functions of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

What does this mean for employers?

One of the most notable practical consequences of this change is that notification of proposed collective redundancies, previously made to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation under Section 12 of the Protection of Employment Act, must now be made to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, located in Áras Mhic Dhiarmada, Store Street, Dublin 1.

3. Change to Graduate Work Permit Eligibility

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has recently revised the conditions of the Third Level Graduate Programme (or "Stamp 1G" permission). Previously, the Programme allowed non-EEA graduates from a recognised Irish University to remain in Ireland to seek or undertake employment for a 12 month period without the need to obtain a separate employment permit. A key amendment to the Programme is that now Graduates with an award at Level 9 or above on the National Framework of Qualifications can apply for a 12 month extension to their initial 12 month permission.

What does this mean for employers?

This change allows Irish employers to employ non-EEA Graduates (who satisfy the conditions above) for a longer period of two years post-graduation without the need for a work permit. However, employers should take note that this change applies only to graduates who received their Level 9 award on or after 1 January 2017.