A business umbrella group has hit out at new Government rules allowing up to 60,000 parents to take two extra weeks of paid leave in the first year of their child's life, claiming it will damage firms and is not based on any "common sense".
Business group Ibec criticised the decision after it was brought into practice by Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty on Friday.
Under law changes previously announced by the Government and implemented from this weekend, new parents can now claim an extra two weeks of paid leave from their employers when they have a child.
The rules mean that new fathers and mothers will now be able to claim an extra €490 each from the State for the extra time off, in addition to existing maternity and parental leave and other leave entitlements.
The law change was introduced after the final stages of the widely-flagged Parent's Leave and Benefit Bill passed through the Dáil and Seanad last week, before being signed into law by President Michael D Higgins in recent days.
Speaking at Government Buildings on Friday, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the new rules will help up to 60,000 people and allow them to fully bond with their new child.
Ms Doherty added that the extra support will be in addition to the statutory entitlement to at least 26 weeks paid maternity leave and a further 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave, saying:
We want to facilitate parents in the first 12 months of life.
However, in a hard-hitting statement on Friday, business umbrella group Ibec said while it understands the Government decision, it has genuine concerns over the potential impact of the new rules on firms.
"Ibec is deeply concerned at the exclusion of a key safeguard for employers and employees in the new legislation which introduces two weeks’ paid parent’s leave.
"The new parent’s leave, while short in duration, will often be added to almost a year of maternity leave.
"The manner in which the new law has been drafted will place employers in potential breach of the legislation through circumstances outside of their control, if they lose a key client or are required to close a particular operation in advance of the employee’s return to work.
"The exclusion of the provision is symptomatic of the lack of balance which has beset employment regulation in recent years. Ibec urges law makers to consider more carefully the impact of Irish law on employers who are the engine of the Irish economy," a spokesperson said.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio'sprogramme, Small Firms Association director Sven Spollen-Behrens was similarly critical, saying the changes could cause unexpected problems for companies.
For small businesses with less than fifty employees who usually don't have large HR departments, additional leave will put an administrative burden on them.
"It will also put financial pressure on them, because if there is more leave available they have to hire replacement staff," Mr Spollen-Behrens said.