Sunday, 13th October 2019

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Saving Money by Minimising Waste

The Significance of Waste Management in Business. With mounting expenses it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to remain in operation and to maintain employee numbers.

Recycle

Managers are faced with a difficult task as they are continuously asked to reduce costs while simultaneously preserving the quality and service levels throughout the business. 

Every company should implement a minimum waste policy to encourage employees to be more aware of their actions and their use or misuse of resources in the workplace and beyond.

 

Minimising the amount of waste in any organisation will have a positive effect on the bottom line. Consequently, introducing a minimum waste policy is essential if the business is to operate in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible.

Waste 

Employees should be obliged to avoid extravagant use of the company’s services, time and energy. Employees should be encouraged to take extra care during their normal work duties by avoiding unnecessary use of any resources within the Company.

Employees should be trained so that they handle all machines, equipment and stock with the utmost of care. Employers should have a policy in place that deals with the conservation of energy.

Do not wasteThis policy would direct employees as to how they should proceed when it comes to dealing with lights and heat and so on. The use of all unnecessary lighting and heating should be prohibited and lights/heat should be turned off when their use is not required.

 

Doors/windows should be opened/closed where possible in order to maintain temperature levels. Similarly, taps should not be allowed to drip and any concerns about resources should be reported to management so that they may be evaluated and rectified.

Reduction of waste

The use of paper and ink throughout the course of the working day is something that a lot of companies find to be expensive. It is important that employees only print items that they need to have in hardcopy in order to reduce the waste of paper and ink. It is also significant for employers to encourage employees to print on both sides where possible. E-mailing, rather than posting, documents is another practice that should be encouraged. Recycling/reusing paper, where possible, is also a practice that should be considered.

If it is a case that an employee finds himself or herself without assignments to complete during working hours or if their work has come to a standstill for one reason or another then he or she should be encouraged to offer assistance to colleagues who have yet to complete their workload.

In terms of productivity, employees should be prepared to start their working day by the time they are scheduled to begin work and should proceed with their work-related activities without delay. The same process should be followed after break/lunch periods and employees should not conclude their work until the time that they are scheduled to do so.

Waste

If it becomes apparent that certain employees are struggling to organise their time then the provision of time-management training should be considered by management. It is also important to ensure that employees are aware of the most efficient methods of carrying out routine tasks (such as searching for documents or preparing spreadsheets) so time is used in the most efficient manner possible.

There are many techniques that a company can use to improve efficiency and exploring and implementing these methods is very important if a company is to remain competitive.

 

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Mediation as an Alternative Dispute Resolution practice

Workplace mediation involves a third, neutral party bringing two disputing individuals (or groups) together in order to reach an agreement that satisfies both sides. This type of dispute resolution is gaining credibility as an alternative to court/formal proceedings.

Mediation

As many of us know, clashes in the workplace can be extremely disruptive – not just to those directly involved but to bystanders also. Conflicts can arise for multiple reasons – for example, they can be as a result of a dispute over performance or something as simple as a personality clash. Conflict can severely impede an organisation’s ability to run efficiently and can damage employee well-being. It can cause stress, anxiety and depression. Conflict can increase employee turnover and can negatively influence reputation in the industry as well as delaying the Company’s achievement of its corporate goals.

Another negative consequence of a dispute in the workplace is a decrease in productivity levels. Similarly, morale within the Company can be influenced in a negative manner as a result of work-related disputes and levels of employee absence can also increase. It is clear that workplace disputes can have extensive side effects.

In an effort to resolve matters, parties are regularly forced to attend Employment Appeals Tribunal/Labour Court proceedings. However, this is not always the best course of action as these processes can often lead to a complete breakdown in relationships and can prove to be extremely lengthy and costly.

In fact, these methods can often aggravate matters as, typically, only one party is satisfied with the conclusion and resources, including time and finances, have often been significantly drained throughout the process.

In some instances, mediation can be an acceptable alternative to court proceedings when disputes arise in the workplace. Mediation is a confidential process where parties are encouraged to discuss all elements of the dispute without fear that their legal position could be compromised or prejudiced. Mediation can encourage a more swift resolution of differences and aims to find a solution that satisfies all parties while avoiding the types of adversarial procedures that have become very common in this era of increased employee litigation. Efficient working relationships can often be restored through the practice of mediation.

 

Mediation

 

Mediation is an informal approach to dispute resolution. It can be used in an attempt to resolve a vast range of differences. Mediation is most effective when introduced at the initial phase of disagreements, however, it can also be availed of later in the process – after Tribunal proceedings have concluded, for instance. At this stage mediation could assist in repairing the relationship between the parties that have been in conflict.

Mediation is where an unbiased facilitator assists the two parties to a dispute in reaching an agreement. The purpose of a skilled mediator is to encourage the parties to arrive at a mutually satisfactory solution. The role of this neutral third party is not to judge or to determine who is at fault but, instead, he or she is there to enable the meaningful exchange of information between parties with an ultimate goal of resolving their conflict. The mediator should not determine the outcome – this should come from the disputing parties. Mediation is morally binding but normally does not carry any legal status. There is usually one mediator or two co-mediators.

One significant advantage of mediation is that it tends to be less of a financial burden when compared to formal proceedings. Both parties to a dispute are encouraged to talk very honestly and openly during the process and, as a consequence of that, mediation can assist in the discovery and resolution of the root cause of the conflict that exists in the workplace and can prevent the same situation from arising in the future. This is less likely to be the case in a Tribunal type scenario.

Mediation

Mediation is not always a suitable dispute resolution method, however, if it is determined that it is appropriate then it can involve either an internal scheme or an external provider. Internal schemes mainly exist in larger organisations.

During mediation the neutral mediator chairs the process which helps to dispel tension that may have built up between disputing parties. It is vital that levels of tension in the workplace are minimal especially where the parties are expected to continue to work together. The process can take an entire day or more. Either way the process is far less time consuming than going through the courts.

Mediation is beneficial because it is a voluntary non-confrontational process – both parties will be more likely to co-operate as neither is obliged to be involved in the process.

The stages of mediation are as follows:

  1. Normally, both parties meet with the mediator separately initially so that the procedure can be discussed and so each party has the opportunity to illustrate their ideal outcome.

  2. Usually a joint meeting is then scheduled in order that the issues may be heard.

  3. Next, the issues are explored and an agreement is drawn up. The mediator will support the parties in solving their problems and will assist in ensuring that the agreements are workable. If he or she feels that it is necessary, the skilled mediator will separate the parties and will deal with them individually at various points.

  4. The last stage in the process includes the explanation of responsibilities and the distribution of a copy of the agreement to all involved.

Sometimes, unfortunately, no agreement is reached. If this is the case then nothing that has been discussed throughout the mediation process may be used in any future proceeding should they take place.

 

 

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Employee unfairly dismissed for improper internet use awarded €7,000.

Why is having an internet use/social media policy so important? On 17th December 2013, the Employment Appeals Tribunal in Mullingar heard a claim that an employee had been unfairly dismissed by her employer, a wholesale electrical company that employed approximately 36 employees.

Unfair Dismissal, CompensationThe individual was employed as a Marketing Assistant from 1 November 2010. With the permission of the employer, the employee worked a three day week for the first year as she was completing a graphic design course simultaneously. The employer was happy for the employee to begin working a 5 day week on 1st November 2011.  

 

 The Managing Director claimed that both he and the Office Manager had warned the claimant on a number of occasions about her non-work related internet use. According to the Managing Director, these alleged warnings were of a verbal nature. The Managing Director gave evidence to the Tribunal that, on 16 January 2012, he observed the claimant on a social media site and called her to his office before proceeding to dismiss her from her employment with the Company.

The Managing Director believed that the actions of the claimant amounted to a waste of the Company’s time and resources and her actions constituted gross misconduct.

It became apparent that the Company did not have a formal internet use/social media policy in place while the claimant was employed. It also came to light that the employee did not receive a contract of employment nor did she receive a copy of the Company’s disciplinary procedures.

Unfair Dismissal, Internet Use Policy

 

The claimant stated that she completed all tasks that were assigned to her. She was not using the internet in a secretive way (she gave evidence that her computer monitor was in full view of the office) and she did not believe that she was doing anything wrong when she was online.

The claimant testified that she was not given a job description detailing the tasks that were assigned to her. The former employee explained that, if she was aware of the company’s policy around internet use/social media then she would have abided by it.

The claimant stated that she regularly asked for more assignments to complete during her work hours but was not provided with enough to occupy all of her working time. The employee explained that she was told in December to “wind down” for the Christmas period when she looked for more work from the Managing Director’s son. The claimant admitted to spending time browsing the internet when she had finished with her work assignments but clarified that she spent the majority of her time on the internet carrying out work related activities.

The claimant gave evidence that she never received any warnings prior to her dismissal.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal considered all of the evidence that was submitted by the claimant and the respondent and concluded that the dismissal of the employee was unfair as, according to the Tribunal, there appears not to have been any valid grounds for the termination.

In addition to this the Tribunal found that the dismissal was lacking any procedural fairness because no investigation or disciplinary process took place.

Contracts of Employment

 

The Tribunal also made note of the fact that the claimant was never provided with a any of the following documents throughout the course of her employment:

  • A contract of employment,

  • Payslips,

  • An internet use/social media policy

  • A copy of the Company’s disciplinary procedures

The claimant received pay for one week’s notice.

The Tribunal found that there was no gross misconduct on the part of the claimant and, consequently, the Tribunal found that the employee was Unfairly Dismissed and awarded her €7,000.00 in compensation under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007.

 

GUIDE TO CONTRACTS OF EMPLOYMENT

 

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Worker dismissed at probationary period meeting awarded €10k

Labour Court, Unfair Dismissal, ProbationOn 17th September 2013 a former employee of a coach hire company referred his case under Section 20 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 to the Labour Court and agreed to be bound by the Recommendations of the Court.

 

The case revolved around the alleged Unfair Dismissal of the claimant at his probationary meeting.

 

 

An employee with less than 12 months’ service cannot avail of the protections offered by the Unfair Dismissals Acts, however, as this particular employee did, employees with less than 12 months’ service can refer a claim under the Industrial Relations Act as the amount of service is irrelevant in these instances.

 

The employee claimed that he was made aware that he was being dismissed at the meeting but stated that no issues about his performance were raised at that time. The employee described how he was denied his right to appeal the decision as his employer either claimed to be “unavailable” or simply “failed to respond” to any correspondence relating to an appeal process.

 

A Labour Court hearing was scheduled for, and took place on, January 10th 2014.

 

The employer, who was notified of the hearing, did not attend and did not appoint any representation to attend on his/her behalf.

 

Given his opportunity to speak, the worker claimed that throughout the course of his probation, he was never told of any issues with his performance. He went on to describe how he was not afforded his right to query why he was dismissed and was not given any opportunity to appeal the decision made by his employers to terminate his employment at that time.

 

As there was no representation on the part of the employer the employee’s claims went uncontested.

 

With the evidence presented to it, the Court decided that the process used in deciding to dismiss the claimant fell short of the standards of fairness that a reasonable employer should exhibit.

 

The Court, satisfied with the evidence of the claimant, ruled that he be compensated in the amount of €10,000. This figure was in full and final settlement of all claims arising from this dismissal.

Award, Unfair Dismissal

 

 

The determination in this case should encourage all employers to ensure that they follow Labour Court approved procedures with extreme care when dismissing an employee - even when doing so during a probationary period.

 

Employers should note from this case that all employees, including those who are dismissed during probation, are entitled to be afforded details of the reasons why they are being let go and should also be offered the right to appeal the decision to terminate.

 

As should be the case all employees, even employees on probation, are entitled to natural justice.

 

Probation Performance Assessment Form

 

 

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Parental Leave in Ireland

Parental LeaveEmployees in Ireland are entitled to avail of Parental Leave when they become a parent. This Leave is for the sole purpose of taking care of the child in respect of whom the Leave is being taken. This Leave is different to Maternity/Paternity Leave.

 

 

The employer has the right to cancel the Leave if he or she discovers that the Leave is being used for another purpose.

 

Parental Leave applies to all employees who have completed 12 months' continuous service.

However, if a child is approaching the age threshold (described below) and the employee has accrued at least 3 months’ service then he or she will be entitled to the Leave on a pro-rata basis.

Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to Parental Leave and are encouraged to avail of their own entitlement. Where both parents work for the same employer, the employer may agree to transfer one parent’s Leave to the other parent. The employer is in no way obliged to agree to this.

 

 

 

The allowance increased from 14 to 18 weeks per child in March 2013. If an employee has more than one child, except in cases of multiple births (twins etc.), Parental Leave is limited to 18 weeks in any 12 month period. If the employer agrees, however, more weeks per year can be allowed.

 

 

The 18 weeks per child may be taken in one continuous period or in separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks at a time. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between two periods of Parental Leave per child. If the employer agrees, the employee can take Leave in a different pattern. This, for instance, could consist of single days at a time or even hours. This can often work out better for the business, however, it can be complicated to keep track of.

Separating the Parental Leave entitlements in to shorter periods of days/hours can be agreed on an individual basis – this is at the discretion of the employer and is based on the operational needs of the business - there is absolutely no obligation on the employer to agree to shorter periods.

 

 

Parental Leave

 

Many employees take one day per week for the duration of their Leave – In this instance, if the employee normally works a 5 day week, the employee would be entitled to work 4 days per week for 90 weeks.

 


The employer must maintain detailed records of all Parental Leave as it is used. Employers must keep these details for 8 years.

 


The Leave must be taken before the child reaches 8 years of age. Exceptions apply in the case of children who are adopted between the ages of 6 and 8 – Leave in this instance may be taken up to 2 years after the date of the adoption order. Similarly, exceptions to the age threshold are made where a child has a disability – Leave may be taken in respect of children with disabilities up to the age of 16. Where illness or other incapacity prevented the employee taking the Leave within the normal period exceptional allowances may be made.

 

 

Parental Leave applicants must write to their Manager requesting the Leave 6 weeks before the expected commencement date.

 

 

Where Parental Leave is approved by the employer a Parental Leave Agreement should be drawn up.

 

 

Parental Leave remains as being unpaid Leave from employment. However, employers should be aware that employees retain their right to accumulate Annual Leave while on Parental Leave and also employees retain their entitlements for Public Holidays while on Parental Leave. There will be a loss of pension contributions, where relevant. The employee's PRSI contributions will be protected during Parental Leave. The employee will then get credited PRSI contributions for this time.

 

 

An employer may postpone a Parental Leave application for up to 6 months (this must be done before the confirmation document is signed). If the Leave would have a substantial, adverse effect on the operation of the business the employer would have grounds to postpone the requested Leave. Postponement due to a lack of cover/due to the fact that other employees are already on Parental Leave would be justified. Normally, only one postponement is allowed.

 

 

The employee is entitled to return to their job after Parental Leave, unless it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to allow them to return to their old job. In this case, the employee must be offered a suitable alternative on terms no less favourable than the previous job, including any improvement in pay or other conditions, which occurred while the employee was on Parental Leave.

 

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Bullying prevalent in Irish workplaces according to recent survey

BullyingThe results of a recent Europe-wide survey, which were reported on in TheJournal.ie’s article Irish workplaces among worst in Europe for bullying, highlighted worrying levels of bullying within companies in Ireland. According to the survey, Ireland is the 7th worst country in Europe when it comes to workplace bullying with a significant 6% of employees claiming to experience it.

 

Tom O’Driscoll, SIPTU’s Head of Legal Affairs, explained that “It can be physical abuse but it’s usually abusive name-calling, putting undue pressure on people, singling people out, commenting on their performance…” etc.

Bullying in the workplace is any recurring inappropriate conduct that undermines a person’s right to dignity at work. Bullying can be carried out by one person or by several people - it is aimed at an individual or a group where the objective is to make them feel inferior or victimised. Bullying can come in the form of a verbal or physical assault and can also take place over the internet – this is known as cyber bullying and can be performed via many methods - Mobile phones, social networking sites, emails and texts are all common vehicles for cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is becoming more and more prevalent in society.

Keep in mind that harassment based on civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, race, nationality or ethnic origin, disability or membership of the Traveller community is considered discrimination.

Harassment in the workplace is prohibited under the terms of the Employment Equality Acts. The Act of harassment - whether direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional - is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by any company.   Any allegations should be dealt with seriously, promptly and confidentially with a thorough and immediate investigation. Any acts of harassment should be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.  Any victimisation of an employee for reporting an incident, or assisting with an investigation of alleged harassment and/or bullying is a breach of Equality Legislation and should also be subject to disciplinary action.

Dignity at work

 

Bullying or harassment isn’t always obvious – in fact it can come in many shapes and forms – some examples are:

•Social exclusion or isolation                                                                                                                                             

•Damaging someone’s reputation through gossip or rumour                                                                                               

•Any form of intimidation                                                                                                                                                 

•Aggressive or obscene language or behaviour                                                                                                            

•Repeated requests for unreasonable tasks to be carried out

Employers - Did you know that you can be held accountable for bullying or harassment in the workplace?

……..Not being aware of it does not get you off the hook!

Under current Irish Employment Legislation (The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011) companies are accountable when it comes to bullying and harassment in the workplace. It is vital for employers to be mindful of the legislation as companies are answerable for the actions of employees, suppliers and customers even in cases where the company is not aware that bullying or harassment is taking place.

To defend itself; a company must illustrate how it did everything reasonably practicable to prevent bullying and/or harassment from taking place in the workplace. The company must also show that when an instance of bullying or harassment occurred the company took immediate, fair and decisive action.

 

Dignity at work

 

There is a huge risk of exposure if companies do not adhere to the strict Regulations. Those found in violation of the Act may be liable for fines and in severe circumstances imprisonment on summary conviction. Companies can also end up paying out large sums in compensation.

Sample award – In June 2013, a fast food company in Blackpool, Cork was forced to pay €15,000 after two employees were subjected to sexual harassment by another employee. 

An Equality Tribunal ruling found that a lesbian couple, who both worked for the restaurant in Cork, were forced to endure obscene remarks and queries about their relationship and sexuality from another employee at the branch.

The Tribunal found that management at the restaurant failed in their duty to take the appropriate steps to protect the women. They failed in their responsibilities to their employees and consequently were instructed to pay €15,000 to the couple.  

Compensation

 

Under Irish Employment Legislation it is the duty of the employer to provide a workplace that is safe for lesbian women and gay men to be open about their sexuality.  

This is something that all employers need to pay close attention to. 

Bullying creates a very hostile work environment and can negatively affect employee performance – It can lead to disengagement and low levels of morale. It can also cause a company to lose key members of staff. Bullying can affect both the safety and the health of employees – this violates the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

It is abundantly clear that it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to prevent bullying or harassment of any form in the workplace.

Employers need to be vigilant and need to make more of an effort to consciously crack down on this type of activity.

In order to avoid bullying and harassment an employer should include harassment-related policies and procedures in the Employee Handbook – A Dignity at Work Policy should be communicated clearly to employees. This will clarify what is expected of employees and what the protocol/repercussions are if bullying/harassment does occur.

The Europe-wide survey found that females between the ages of 30 and 49 are most likely to be bullied at work. Males between the ages of 15 and 29 are the second most likely group to experience bullying.  Women in the same age group are most likely to experience sexual harassment.

Bullying in the workplace

In December 2013 the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) brought our attention to a shocking statistic when it revealed that the number of racist incidents reported in Ireland in the first 11 months of 2013 had jumped 85% on the same period in 2012. The racism reported related to alleged discrimination, written harassment, verbal harassment and physical violence. A massive 20% of the reported incidents of racism occurred in the workplace.

Racist Incidents

 

 

 

       

             The area of workplace bullying clearly requires immediate attention in Ireland.

 

 

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