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Keeping you up to date – what you need to know

In our March newsletter we analysed the Final Report of the Holidays Act Taskforce after it was released by the Minister for Workplace Relations. All the recommendations have been accepted by the Government. While we wait for the legislation to implement these changes there has been further tinkering with the Holidays Act that you should be aware of:

Holidays Act Taskforce Final Report

Increased sick leave

The minimum sick leave entitlement for employees increases from 5 days to 10 days per year from 24 July 2021.

Most employees who have worked for an employer for six months or over are entitled to sick leave if they, or a dependent, are sick or injured. Employees will get the extra five days when they reach their next entitlement date – either after reaching 6 months’ employment or on their sick leave entitlement anniversary (12 months after they were last entitled to sick leave).

Employees who already get 10 or more sick days a year will not be affected by this change.

The maximum amount of unused sick leave that an employee can be entitled to will remain at 20 days (although some employees have a contractual right to accrue more sick leave if it is untaken).

Bereavement leave

Losing a baby is very hard and unfortunately quite common (around 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage). Miscarriage is most common in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but can happen up until 20 weeks. Losing a baby after 20 weeks is a stillbirth, which is much less common than miscarriage (it affects about 1 in every 200 pregnancies).

From 31 March of this year the law change allows an employee to take up to three days’ paid bereavement leave if they or their partner experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth. People planning to have a child through surrogacy or adoption are also eligible if the pregnancy ends by miscarriage or stillbirth.

Bereavement leave gives an employee time to grieve and to take care of matters to do with the bereavement. This can be taken at any time and for any purpose relating to the death, miscarriage or stillbirth, and does not have to be taken straight away or on consecutive days.

The existing rules on bereavement continue to apply. Employees become eligible for bereavement leave after six months. Employees are not required to produce proof of pregnancy, miscarriage or stillbirth. The law change does not provide bereavement leave for terminations. Depending on the circumstances, mothers may be eligible to use sick leave following a termination.

Further possible change – parent-teacher interviews

A Member’s Bill to amend the Holiday Act to include parent-teacher interview leave has had its first reading in Parliament. If passed in its draft form, it will allow employees with children to take paid leave to attend parent-teacher interviews during the employee’s normal working hours.

The Bill proposes that the employee will become entitled to the leave from their first day of work and they may take up to 4 hours’ leave in each 12-month period of current continuous employment. Unused leave will not be carried forward and will not be paid out on termination of employment. The employee will be paid for each hour of parent-teacher interview leave, calculated as a pro rata proportion of the employee’s relevant daily pay or average daily pay.

A “parent-teacher interview” means a meeting between a parent and a teacher about a child’s learning progress. It does not include a meeting between a parent and a teacher about a disciplinary matter relating to a child.

If passed, the Bill is likely to come into force later this year.

Conclusion

Make sure your business and its’ managers are aware of the changes (and alerted to possible further changes). Make sure your policies and any systems are updated.