Fórsa has expressed disappointment at Ibec’s negative reaction to proposals to expand paid and unpaid parental leave. Last week, the employer’s body claimed measures to improve work-life balance would place a “heavy burden” on business.
The recently-published Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 is expected to lead to the implementation of two weeks’ paid parental leave from February this year. This will increase to seven weeks’ leave for each parent by 2021.
The developments stem from a recent EU directive on work-life balance, which obliges governments to increase access to paid parental leave for both parents.
Although Ibec supports Ireland’s EU membership, which requires us to implement European legislation in matters like this, its Director of Employer Relations Maeve McElwee said the long-overdue measures to help working parents would be “extremely costly for many small and medium size enterprises.”
This is despite the fact that the taxpayer will cover the cost of the new measures by paying the basic parental leave payment.
Fórsa official Geraldine O’Brien condemned Ibec’s reaction, saying the new law was a modest but important step towards increasing women's participation in the labour market.
“This welcome help for working parents, which is rooted in EU law, is exactly the sort of thing that can make Europe more relevant to our daily lives. These measures will facilitate greater sharing of care responsibilities, and reduce the pressure on working parents to choose between their family lives and professional career,” she said.
The proposed paternity leave payment will be the prevailing maternity and paternity leave rate, which is currently €245 a week. Along with existing measures, the change would increase to 42 weeks the amount of paid leave available to new parents during the first year of a child’s life.
The Irish legislation anticipates the recently agreed EU Work Life Balance Directive, which requires EU member states to provide a minimum of ten days’ paternity leave – plus five days' unpaid carers’ leave a year – within the next three years.
The directive also allows for a minimum of four months’ paid and unpaid parental leave per parent, of which two months would be non-transferable between parents.
The Irish Government intends to set parental leave at two weeks late this year, before increasing it to seven weeks on a phased basis over the next three years.