How Employers Can Avoid Expensive Employment Law Claims by Employees-7 Steps

If you are an employer you are in danger of leaving yourself wide open to expensive claims by your employees should you fail to follow some basic but essential steps in your employment relationship with your employees.

employment-law-claims

In addition to settling successful claims brought by employees you also run the risk of fines and other sanctions from the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) which has a dedicated unit, the Prosecution Services Unit, which can refer cases to the Chief State Solicitors Office for prosecution.

There is a wide body of employment legislation in force in Ireland which can be confusing, complex, and impenetrable for many employers.

In addition some industries have their own industry specific agreements called registered employment agreements (REA) and minimum wage rates. It is worth noting that these registered employment agreements are binding on all parties once registered with the Labour Court.

Minimum requirements in employment law

1. Written statement of certain terms and conditions of employment

This statement must be given to the employee within two months of commencing employment. The relevant act is the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 which sets out the basic information that an employee is entitled to be given in writing about their contract of employment

 

2. Written statement of pay

 

3. The minimum wage

There are exceptions to the minimum wage in Ireland of €8.65 per hour but most adults will be entitled to it; in addition certain industries have their own higher minimum wage.

 

4. Maximum hours worked

Employers must keep records of hours worked by employees to ensure compliance with the maximum working week average of  48 hours which may be calculated over a 4, 6 or 12 month period depending on the industry

 

5. Working time and breaks

The breaks to which employees are entitled are set out in the Organization of Working Time Act, 1997. Currently break entitlements are 15 minutes per four and a half hours work and a 30 minute break for six hours worked.

 

6. Holiday entitlements

Holiday entitlements are also covered in the Organization of Working Time Act, 1997. In general full time workers are entitled to four  paid weeks holidays per year with part timers being entitled to similar holidays on a pro rata basis depending on hours worked which equates to one third of a week per month worked.

 

7. Minimum notice of termination of employment

The minimum notice periods are set out in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2001 and depend on the length of service with the minimum regardless of service being 1 week.

 

Employers Obligations to Employees

Employment rights for employees in Ireland are provided for by a very extensive range of legislation, statutory instrument, regulation, EU directive, and decided decisions in the courts.

These rights fall under a wide range of headings such as

  • information that needs to be provided by the employers after the commencement of employment under the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994
  • termination of employment
  • redundancy
  • leave/holidays
  • working time
  • health and safety law
  • grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures
  • changing the contract of employment
  • payment of wages
  • rest periods
  • statutory periods of leave such as maternity leave
  • equality and anti discrimination laws
  • and so forth.

 

It is advisable for employers to consult a  legal professional in relation to their obligations as employers because it is very easy to transgress and infringe the employees’ rights. This page will give you a list of articles covering many of the main issues and common problems that arise in the employment relationship. However it is not an exhaustive list and if a problem arises in the workplace do seek professional advice or contact NERA.

For small business and entrepreneurs in Ireland, it is critical that they are aware of the law covering termination of employment and safety in the workplace for employees.

Our sister site, http://EmploymentRightsIreland.com, has more comprehensive information about employment law in Ireland.

 

Termination of employment covers such areas as redundancy, dismissal, unfair dismissal and the procedures that must be employed by the employer. Some vital areas to consider before offering an employment contract is how the contract will be terminated where necessary.

Safety at work

There are equally onerous obligations when it comes to providing safety at work for his/her employees.
The law surrounding safety at work in particular has given very strong powers to health and safety inspectors to carry out inspections in the workplace…….
……..and initiate prosecutions if they choose to do so. Which can result in criminal penalties.

The consequences of a criminal record for any small business owner should not need to be spelled out. And the provision of safety at work is a moral as well as legal obligation.

 

Termination of employment

In the Ireland of the last few years termination of employment as a result of the downturn and the need to seek redundancies is a feature of many workplaces.

 

But an understanding of how to proceed with redundancy, legally, is critical…….

 

Because the penalties that can be imposed for unfair dismissal and ‘fake’ redundancy can be very costly. It does not have to happen if you have a basic understanding of how to terminate employment legally.

 

There are many other occasions when an employer will need to terminate the employment of an employee. Not to follow the correct procedure will prove to be a costly and needless expense for your small business. Learn more about employment law in Ireland.

 

Conclusion

Employers can save themselves the considerable costs in money and time involved in defending or otherwise dealing with claims by their employees by some prudent management and housekeeping.

Doing business nowadays can be a fraught enough activity without inviting needless trouble on yourself for the want of a straightforward contract of employment and/or letter of offer and/or statement of your employees’ terms and conditions.

At a minimum you should carry out an audit of your

  • Contracts of employment
  • Staff handbooks
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures
  • All workplace policy documents.

If you have a question or concern, please use the contact form below. We respond within 24 hours, guaranteed.

Employers-How to Avoid Costly Employment Claims

Working Time And Rest Periods in Irish Employment Law-What You Need to Know

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The leave entitlements and rest periods  of employees are governed by the Organisation of Working Time Act,1997 which regulates employees rights in relation to maternity leave, paternity leave,sick pay and holiday entitlements.

How working time is defined is important in this regard for example what is the position for employees who are on call.

This appears from case law to require that the employee be on call in a particular place for it to count as working time;if the employee has to be on standby but can go home for example it has been held by the courts that this is not working time. This is particularly for doctors, for example, but the same principle applies to all workers.

It is worth noting that the Organization of Working Time Act does not apply to the defence forces or gardai or to certain other employees such as those working in an emergency situation, people working at sea and most importantly does not apply to people who can set their own working hours.

Rest Periods

An employee is entitled to a rest period of at least 11 hours in every work period of 24 hours. While at work an employee is entitled to a 15 minute break every 4.5 hours and an employee can not be obliged to work for more than 6 hours without a 30 minute break.

In a 7 day period an employee is entitled to a rest period of at least 24 hours and employees who are required to work on Sunday must be compensated by extra pay or paid time off or some other arrangement arrived at with the employee.

An employee can not be expected to work in excess of 48 hours per week; note that this is an average period and the average is calculated over 4-6 months so in any one week it is possible for the employee to work in excess of 48 hours but by law employers should not let employees to average over 48 hours per week in a 4-6 month period.

Night Workers

Employers can not expect or oblige night workers to work over 8 hours in a 24 hour period; a night worker is a worker who works at least 3 hours post midnight as night work is considered to be from midnight to 7 am.

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997

The most important piece of legislation dealing with the hours of work, holidays, leave entitlements, days off, breaks, and so on is the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. For employers it is important to note that working time and time off/annual leave should be viewed as health and safety issues for employees also.

The definition of “working time” in the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 is an important one:

working time” means any time that the employee is—
(a) at his or her place of work or at his or her employer’s disposal, and
(b) carrying on or performing the activities or duties of his or her work,
and “work” shall be construed accordingly.

On call or on standby?

If you are on call or standby the prime determining factor as to whether this is “working time” or not will be the requirement to be at a particular place or not-if a physical presence is required it is considered working time; if not, it is not considered working time, even though you may, like a doctor, be on call.

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 does not apply to Gardai and Defence Forces members and certain sections of the Act do not apply to other groups of employees (for example people involved in the transportation of goods or people, people involved in sea fishing, employees covered by collective agreements, doctors in training etc.)

Minimum Rest Periods

Section 11 of the Act stipulates that an employee is entitled to a“rest period of not less than 11 consecutive hours in each period of 24 hours”.

Section 12 states that an employee is entitled to a rest period of at least 15 minutes after working for 4.5 hours and a break of at least 30 minutes after working for 6 hours. Note: a break at the end of the working day is not acceptable and does not comply with the Act.

Section 13 gives an entitlement to at least 24 consecutive hours of a break in each period of seven days.

Section 15 states that an employee cannot work in excess of an average of 48 hours in a week-the average is taken over a two to twelve month period, depending on the industry and whether you are a night worker or not.

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 also contains provisions covering night workers, circumstances where an employee may not have a regular starting and/or finishing time and zero hours contracts.

Certain sectors of activity are exempted from the rest provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, for example some transport activities. These exemptions are normally set out in a statutory instrument so legal advices is recommended to check whether your industry is affected by an exemption.

Disputes

Disputes are dealt with by a Rights Commissioner in the first instance with appeals to the Employment Appeals tribunal once referred within 6 months of the alleged breach. The Rights Commissioner has a number of options open to him/her including ordering the employer to pay up to two years remuneration as compensation.

We always recommend, regardless of whether you are an employer or employee, that you consult with a legal professional for advice as the consequences of an error in this area can be very costly.

You may also be interested in my other site, EmploymentRightsIreland.com. It has a huge amount of free information about employment law in Ireland.