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Workers to get five days’ leave to care for sick child or relative

  • Radical new work-life balance laws will introduce the unpaid leave for any employee who needs it to care for a family member
  • Flexible working also on table
  • Landscape of the workplace is changing rapidly


Roderic O’Gorman

Roderic O’Gorman

Roderic O’Gorman

Parents will be allowed up to five days off work to care for sick children under new legislation being brought to Cabinet.

The radical new work-life balance laws will introduce the unpaid leave for any employee who needs it to care for a family member.

And separately, any parent of a child under 12, or a person caring for a relative, will have the right to request reduced or flexible working hours under the proposed new legislation.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman is bringing a memo to Cabinet this week outlining the new workers’ rights which will give employees more options.

Under the legislation, employees must give their employer six months’ notice if they need more flexible working arrangements to take care of a child or relative.

The employer must respond within four weeks – and if they refuse or postpone the request, they will be required to consult with the employee and also provide reasons for the decision.

The landscape of the workplace is changing rapidly as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has separately introduced legislation giving workers the right to request to work from home.

Separately, Mr O’Gorman’s legislation will also introduce five days of leave for medical care purposes for all employees who need to look after a loved one.

Employees will not have to give notice to their employers when seeking unpaid leave to care for a family member.

However, an employer will be able to request evidence of the medical need for the leave. This could involve employees providing their employers with the medical details of a family member.

An employee will be entitled to return to the role they were in prior to taking the leave. The leave cannot be taken in periods of less than one day.

The new legislation is being introduced on foot of the European Union’s Work Life Balance Directive which states that working parents of children up to eight years old should be entitled to seek flexible working arrangements.

However, Minister O’Gorman is seeking to increase this to children under 12 as part of his legislation.

The directive says employees who have young children or are caring for a family member should have the right to request reduced working hours, flexible working hours or flexibility on the place of work.

Mr O’Gorman is also proposing to increase the number of weeks that mothers are entitled to take time off work each day to breastfeed their children from 26 to 104 weeks.

Working women who are breastfeeding are currently entitled to take one hour, with pay, off work each day to breastfeed their child for six months and this will increase to two years.

Mr O’Gorman is also proposing that women who transition into males, but subsequently give birth to a child, will be entitled to the same time off to breastfeed. This will apply to transgender males who have obtained a gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2015.

The bill will also provide for leave from work for people who are victims of domestic abuse.

The legislation will be debated by the Cabinet tomorrow and the Work Life Balance Bill is part of the Government’s spring legislative schedule which means it will be put before the Dáil in the coming weeks. It is the latest in a series of workers’ rights introduced by the Coalition.

The Government recently introduced the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022. It also proposed legislation which will give workers the right to up to 10 paid days of sick leave. Employees will be entitled to three days sick leave when the policy is signed into law this year and this will increase to 10 days in 2026.

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