Sunday, 13th October 2019

Employee Entitlements

Breaks and Rest Periods in the Irish Workplace

Under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 every single employee in Ireland has a legal entitlement to breaks during their working day (or night) and is entitled to have clearly defined rest periods between their working days/nights.

Breaks and Rest PeriodsUnder the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 a rest period is defined as any time that is not ‘working time’.

In general, an employee is entitled to a 15 minute break after the completion of 4.5 hours of work. If the employee is working a shift of 6 hours then he or she is entitled to a 30 minute break (the first break of 15 minutes can be included in this 30 minute break allocation).

The employer is not obliged to pay employees for these break periods and they are not included when counting the total amount of time that the employee has worked.


The regulations vary slightly for different categories of employees - for instance, shop employees who work more than 6 hours at a time are entitled to a break of one consecutive hour between the hours of 11:30 and 14:30 if they are scheduled to be in the workplace during that time.

Employees are entitled to 11 consecutive hours of rest in a 24 hour period – on top of this, an employee should receive 24 consecutive rest hours in every 7 day period and this 24 hour allocation should follow an 11 hour rest period.

Breaks and Rest Periods

Where an employer does not give his or her employee a full 24 hour consecutive rest period throughout the course of one week he or she must give two of these 24 hour rest periods in the following week.  This rest period, unless otherwise stated, should include a Sunday.

Not all employees are governed by the break and rest period rules described above. Members of An Garda Síochána, The Defence Forces and employees who manage their own working hours are exempt.  Family employees on farms or in private homes are also excluded from the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 directives.

The working terms and conditions for people under the age of 18 differ from those listed here. They are regulated by the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996.

Breaks and Rest Periods

In exceptional circumstances or emergencies an employer is exempt from providing the above mentioned rest periods but only where he or she provides equivalent compensatory rest. Where the rest period is postponed the employer must allow the employee to take the compensatory rest within a reasonable period of time. Employees working in transport activities or certain categories of civil protection services are exempt from the statutory break regulations specified above (the equivalent compensatory rest rules do not apply for these employees).

Employers should be aware that employees have 6 months to make a complaint regarding breaks and rest periods in the workplace (in extreme circumstances this period can be extended to 12 months).

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No Adoptive or Maternity Leave for “Commissioning Mothers”


european Court of Justice, Surrogacy, Maternity LeaveIn September 2013 the legal opinion of the European Court of Justice was that an Irish teacher (Ms. Z), whose child was born through surrogacy, did not have an automatic right to either paid Adoptive Leave or Maternity Leave from her employment.

On 18th March 2014 a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling, that referred to the mother who did not give birth to the child as the “commissioning mother”, upheld this opinion. The ruling stressed that it is the birth mother who should benefit from Maternity Leave even where she does not keep the baby after giving birth and even in cases where the mother who takes on the responsibility of the child after birth is the biological mother. The reason for this is to improve the health and safety of pregnant workers and and those who have recently given birth.

Ms. Z and her husband are the baby’s full genetic parents. When Ms. Z’s application for paid Adoptive Leave was denied she brought a complaint to the Equality Tribunal. The woman, who has no uterus as a result of a rare medical condition, claimed that she was discriminated against on the grounds of sex, family status and disability.

The woman was told by her employer that she could take unpaid Parental Leave instead of the requested Adoptive Leave; however, as the child was genetically hers and her name was on the American birth certificate, Ms. Z felt that she was being treated unfairly.

The surrogacy scenario can be a challenging one for all concerned and blurred lines surrounding what mothers are entitled to in the workplace just adds to the complexity of the situation.

The Equality Tribunal referred the case to the ECJ and the Court ruled yesterday that mothers like Ms. Z do not have any automatic right to Adoptive Leave or Maternity Leave.

Maternity Leave

In September 2013, the legal opinion of the Advocate General stated that Ms. Z’s differential treatment was not based on sex, family status or disability, as claimed, but instead on the “refusal of national authorities to equate her situation with that of either a woman who has given birth or an adoptive mother”.

The Court ruled that Ms. Z did not fall within the scope of the Pregnant Worker’s Directive as the Directive in question presupposes that the worker has been pregnant or has given birth to a child. The claim of discrimination on the grounds of sex failed as fathers in this situation are also denied leave. The claim of discrimination on the grounds of disability also failed as, the judgement stated that, while “a woman’s inability to bear her own child may be a source of great suffering” it does not amount to ‘disability’. The concept of ‘disability’ within the EU Employment Equality Framework Directive “presupposes that the limitation, from which the person suffers, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder that person’s full and effective participation in professional life on an equal basis with other workers”.

The recent revelation, that Irish women who have babies through surrogacy arrangements are not afforded the same rights as mothers who have adopted or given birth to their babies, has highlighted the uncertainties/complexities surrounding the issue of surrogacy in both Irish and EU law.

Surrogacy is becoming a more frequent option for women; however, legislation in Ireland has not kept up with this change.

The ECJ stated that member states are “free to apply more favourable rules for commissioning mothers” and paid leave for mothers, who have children through surrogacy arrangements, is being legislated for in The United Kingdom.

Maternity Leave

On 30th January 2014, Justice Minister Alan Shatter published the General Scheme of Children and Family Relationships Bill for consultation. According to Minister Shatter, the draft bill ‘seeks to provide legal clarity on the parentage of children born through assisted human reproduction and surrogacy’.

 

Annual Leave Guidelines
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Fears for Kerry jobs in pay dispute

Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) held a secret ballot of its members at Liebherr Container Cranes in Killarney yesterday, 14th January 2014.

SIPTU members voted to reject Labour Court proposals geared at resolving a long-term pay increase dispute with the Company dating back to 2009.

Pay Dispute, Labour Court

Liebherr Container Cranes Ltd., a member of the large family-owned German Company, Liebherr Group, was established in Killarney in 1958 and has been a significant direct and indirect employer in the area in recent years. The Company is one of the largest firms in Kerry and one of the largest of its kind in the country.

The German company has warned that its commitment to the plant in Killarney has been weakened in recent months as a result of the on-going pay issues and the industrial action which forced them to send work from Killarney to Germany.

Fears are now growing for jobs at the Company as Management admit to reviewing its operations in the region. Liebherr stated that a small number of employees have seriously compromised its future in Killarney.

Based on the details of Towards 2016 Review and Transitional Arrangement, an agreement drawn up by the Company, a 2.5% pay increase was due to be implemented for employees in January 2009.

Pay Dispute

The Company did not pay the expected increase and argued that payment would severely impact its competitiveness and limit its ability to preserve its headcount numbers in a time of economic hardship. The Company proposed to pay the increase due in three distinct phases beginning in 2012 in return for a number of concessions including cost-offsetting measures.

Union members and the Company were unable to resolve the dispute at local level and it became the subject of a Conciliation Conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission.

Agreement was not reached at this stage and, on the 28th January 2011, the pay dispute was referred to the Labour Court.

A Labour Court hearing was scheduled for, and took place on, the 2nd May 2012.

The Labour Court considered the submissions of all parties and a decision was made that further engagement was required if the claim was to be resolved before the Court. The Court recommended that the discussions/negotiations were to be facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission.

LRC

 

As a result of the unresolved pay dispute, industrial action was served by SIPTU in November 2013. Workers at the plant implemented a ban on overtime and undertook a one-day work stoppage late in November. All industrial action was suspended on 28th November when members of the union accepted an invitation to attend a hearing of the Labour Court on 4th December 2013.  

In December 2013, the Labour Court recommended that the firm award the disputed 2.5% increase backdated almost two full years to its workers. The Court provided a list of recommendations to both sides. Liebherr said that, while the industrial action and the pay award had increased its cost base, they accepted the recommendation.

SIPTU workers at the plant, however, voted on the 14th January 2014 to reject the Labour Court proposals. The union was said to be dissatisfied with the proposal and wanted the 2.5% wage increase to be implemented on an unconditional basis. 

 

 

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State Pension Changes Effective January 2014

 There is no single fixed/mandatory retirement age (age at which you must retire) for employees in Ireland. Typically, an employee’s retirement age is set out in their Contract of Employment and this can vary from one company/industry to the next. Alternatively, precedent/established custom and practice within the Company can determine the retirement age of its employees. E.G: if Mary was forced to retire at the age of 62 then Jack should also have to retire upon reaching the same age (assuming the circumstances are the same and that Mary was not ill, for instance).

Retirement, State Pension, Increase in pension ageContracts provided by employers to their employees usually incorporate a mandatory retirement age (Normal Retirement Date/NRD). This tends to make it compulsory for the employee to retire at a certain age, usually this is somewhere between the ages of 60 and 65. Most contracts also include some sort of provision for early retirement on ill-health grounds etc.

In certain occupations there is a state-imposed compulsory retirement age. This arises for members of An Garda Síochána and members of the Defence Forces, for instance. Gardaí are forced to retire from their roles by the age of 60.

General Practitioners are obliged to retire from the General Medical Services scheme when they reach the age of 70. They may, however, continue to practice privately if they are approved by the Medical Council – the Medical Council will ensure that they meet their fitness to practice criteria.

There is no set retirement age when a person is self-employed, similarly, unless specifically set out in the Company’s Articles of Association, Company Directors are not usually bound by a maximum working age either.

Contract, Retirement AgeInterestingly, employers are allowed to set minimum recruitment ages provided that the minimum age is 18 or under.

The most common company retirement age is 65 and, until recently, people went straight from receiving their salary from the company to receiving a pension from the State (provided they paid enough PRSI contributions during their working life). The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011, however, legislated for certain changes to the pensions system in Ireland effective from 1st January 2014. The State Pension (Transition) has been discontinued for new claimants from 1st January 2014. As a result, the State Pension minimum age has been increased to 66 years for all. It will increase to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 years in 2028.

What this means is that:

  • If a person was born between 1st January 1949 and 31st December 1954 inclusive, the minimum qualifying State Pension age will be 66 (rather than 65).
  • If a person was born between 1st January 1955 and 31st December 1960 inclusive, the minimum qualifying State Pension age will be 67.
  • If a person was born on or after 1st January 1961 the minimum qualifying State Pension age will be 68.

 

Bridge the gap

When asked, in 2011, about the changes to the State Pension the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, said:

“Given the changes to State pension age and the other proposals in the Framework, both employees and employers must be encouraged to change their attitudes to working longer. In the workplace employers must seek to retain older employees and create working conditions which will make working longer both attractive and feasible for the older worker. Where this is not possible and people leave paid employment before State pension age they will be entitled to apply for another social welfare payment until they become eligible for a State pension”.

The Transition Pension will not be payable to anyone who reaches 65 years of age after 1st January 2014. Instead, individuals will have to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance and should be entitled to receive this payment until they become eligible for the State pension. Jobseeker’s Allowance is considerably less per week than the pension is (€188 compared to €230.30).

 

Employees due to retire from their jobs upon reaching the age of 65 may not be able to afford to do so for another year unless they are able to access savings, draw down a private pension or unless their employer graciously extends the retirement age. To date there is no obligation on employers to increase the retirement age or to somehow bridge the gap financially however, employers nationwide may find themselves receiving requests to increase the retirement age for employees.

Pension, Retirement Age

Please note that if an employer wishes to increase the contracted retirement age he or she is still obliged to consult the employee in relation to same as written consent is required to change the terms and conditions of employment.

 

Redundancy Procedures

 

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Dignity at Work – 20% of racist incidents occur in workplace

 

Racism, Dignity at work

 

In December 2013 the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) brought our attention to a shocking statistic – The ICI revealed that the number of racist incidents reported in Ireland in the first 11 months of 2013 had jumped to a staggering figure – The ICI dealt with 142 individual racism cases between January and November 2013 - This figure was 85% higher than for the same 11 month period in 2012. 52 of the racist incidents that were reported occurred between June and July of 2013 alone. This signified a huge increase when compared to the same period in 2012 when just 3 incidents of a similar kind were reported.

The racism reported related to alleged discrimination, written harassment, verbal harassment and physical violence.

Denise Charlton, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, described the results as "alarming".

A massive 20% of the reported incidents of racism occurred 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.

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!

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, 1998 to 2007. 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 Beware:

Under current Irish employment legislation (The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011) companies are accountable when it comes to bullying and harassment in the workplace or workplace disputes. 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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Disciplinary Procedure Chart

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Risk Assessment for Pregnant Employees

As soon as an employer has received written notification of pregnancy from an employee, a risk assessment should be carried out.

The employee should give their employer a copy of any advice that their Doctor/Midwife has given them if it could have an impact on the pregnant employee’s risk assessment. The risk assessment’s purpose is to evaluate the employee’s ability to carry out their role and to identify any possible risks to mother and baby.

Pregnant Employees Risk Assessment

 

 

Examples of some risks are:

  • Standing/sitting for long periods

  • Lifting/carrying heavy loads

  • Threat of violence in the workplace

  • Long working hours

  • Excessively noisy workplaces

  • Exposure to toxic substances

  • Work-related stress

  • Workstations and posture

 

Set out below are the different stages of a pregnant employee risk assessment:


Step 1: Identify the risks (bearing in mind that there may not be any)


Step 2 - Determine what can be done to reduce/remove any of the risks identified in Step 1. This may mean modifying the working hours or conditions of the pregnant employee. This stage can also involve assigning the employee to an alternative role during pregnancy. It is important to remember that the employer is not allowed to alter the employee’s pay for the duration of this change in role.


Step 3 – If the identified risks are great and no possibility of removal/reduction can be found (this may not be practical within the workplace etc.), the employer may decide to suspend the employee from duties until the health and safety of the mother and unborn child/children is no longer threatened. This is known as Health & Safety Leave. Health and Safety Leave can also be applicable for breastfeeding mothers. During Health & Safety Leave (the period of suspension) the employee is entitled to full pay from the employer for the first three weeks. Exceptions can occur if the employee has unreasonably refused to do the alternative ‘risk-free’ work offered to them or if the employee does not meet any reasonable requirements. 

 Risk Assessment

The Department of Social Protection pays Health and Safety Benefit after the first three weeks of Health and Safety Leave has passed. In order to qualify for Health and Safety Benefit, you must meet certain criteria and PRSI contribution conditions. Employees are still considered to be in employment so they continue to accumulate their annual leave entitlement. However, they are not entitled to payment for public holidays that occur while on Health and Safety Leave.

 

 

It is essential that the employer regularly monitors and reviews any assessment made to take account of the possible risks that may occur at the different stages of pregnancy.


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Pension Obligations of Irish Employers

No matter how big or how small your company may be – or whether your employees are part-time, seasonal or fixed-term - every Irish employer is obliged to enter into a contract with a PRSA provider and to provide access to at least one standard PRSA for all ‘excluded employees’.

What are ‘excluded employees’?

Employees are considered to be ‘excluded employees’ if:

  • their employer does not offer a pension scheme, or 

  • they are included in a pension scheme for death-in-service benefits only, or

  • they are not eligible to join the company’s pension scheme or will not become eligible to join the pension scheme within six months from the date they began working there, or 

  • they are included in a pension scheme that does not permit the payment of additional voluntary contributions (AVCs).

 

Pensions, Employer Responsibilities

 

Even if there is only one ‘excluded employee’, an employer must:

  • enter into a contract with a PRSA provider (there is no charge for doing this) 

  • provide employees with access to a Standard PRSA  

  • allow reasonable paid leave of absence, subject to work requirements, so that excluded employees can set up a  Standard PRSA 

  • make deductions from payroll if required  

  • advise employees in writing (normally on their payslip) at least once a month of their total contribution, including employer’s contribution, if any.

 

What an Employer is NOT responsible for:

  • You’re not obliged to give any advice to employees in relation to PRSAs, but you must allow your PRSA provider or intermediary reasonable access to your employees to brief them on PRSAs. 

  • You don’t have to contribute to PRSAs on behalf of your employees, but if you decide to do so, your contributions must be paid to the PRSA provider within 21 days of the end of the month in which the employer contributions are due. And please note that you cannot make any deductions from this payment.

  • You are not responsible for the investment performance of PRSAs

 Pensions, Retiring

What are the consequences of non-compliance?

Be aware that there are significant penalties for failing to discharge your obligations.  The Pensions Board will issue on-the-spot fines and prosecute any employers found in breach of the obligations, so it pays to get it right.

As an Employer you may be subject to an on-the-spot fine if:

(a)     You fail to respond to a request by The Pensions Board to furnish information about their provision of access to a Standard PRSA for ‘excluded employees’ and

(b)     You do not provide at least a monthly statement to employees showing contributions deducted and employer contributions paid in the previous month.

The bottom line is that this is not an issue that you can afford to get wrong. To find out more about your obligations, there’s a very helpful booklet on the Pension Board’s website.

 

IFG have many years of experience of providing Pension Scheme Design & Risk Advisory services to Irish companies. They would be delighted to answer any and all of your pension queries if you would like to find out more www.ifg.ie .

 

 

Annual Leave Tracker
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Employers reducing salaries without consent

If a salary reduction is imposed without consultation or employee agreement, an employee now only has three (rather than four) potential legal opportunities to seek redress from his or her employer.

If an employee’s wages are cut his or her first option is to claim Constructive Dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997-2007. Constructive Dismissal is the term used when an employee terminates his or her employment based on the conduct of the employer. In this instance, the employee must be able to prove that their position became unsustainable as a direct result of the involuntary reduction in pay.

Reduction in paySecondly, where an employee’s salary is reduced, he or she has the opportunity to bring a trade dispute under the Industrial Relations Acts. The Industrial Relations Acts deal with disputes between employers and workers that are connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms and conditions of or affecting the employment, of any person.

 

Thirdly, if an employer cuts an employee’s pay, the employee could claim that their contract has been breached. Defending this could prove very costly for the employer. Furthermore, an injunction may be granted to prevent the contract breach/reinstate the original salary.

Salary Reduction

 

In the past employees whose wages were cut without prior consent had a fourth option. They had the opportunity to take a case (and were likely to succeed) under the Payment of Wages Act 1991. Claims in relation to a reduction in wages, however, may no longer be successful if taken under this Act as a result of a recent Employment Appeals Tribunal determination. The specific EAT case referenced here is an appeal of a Right’s Commissioner decision in the case of Santry Sports Clinic v 5 employees.

The employees in the aforementioned case were claiming for an 8% reduction in their pay that was imposed between February and March 2010. Santry Sports Clinic stated that the reduction was essential. According to the employer, all employees received letters detailing the 8% reduction in advance and, while only 30% of employees agreed to the reduction via return letters, no one officially objected or stated that they would not accept the pay cut and so it was implemented as planned.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal considered all evidence and representations made at the hearing as well as all other submissions made. The Tribunal noted the High Court decision in the case of Michael McKenzie and others and Ireland and the Attorney General and the Minister for Defence Rec. No. 2009. 5651JR. In paragraph 5.8 of this decision the Judge stated that “the Payment of Wages Act has no application to reductions as distinct from ‘deductions’.” The Tribunal followed the High Court decision on a point of law and, therefore, the appeal was successful and the decision of the Rights Commissioner was entirely overturned in the case of Santry Sports Clinic v 5 employees.

Reducing employee's pay

 

This case brought to light the fact that the Payment of Wages Act 1991 refers to “deductions” as opposed to “reductions” and, as a consequence, employees whose wages are reduced without prior consent are now unlikely to succeed if they opt to take a case against their employer under the Payment of Wages Act 1991.

This is particularly significant for claims that are currently being processed by the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Employers need to remember that, although this option has essentially been closed off for employees as a result of the above-mentioned High Court decision and the EAT case, they still have several avenues open to them if they wish to take a claim where a reduction of wages has been imposed by the employer without prior consent.

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Force Majeure Leave in the Irish Workplace

There are several types of leave that an employee may be entitled to. Some forms of leave are statutory entitlements and some other forms are not. Maternity Leave, for instance, must be given to employees when they are pregnant. Some forms of leave are paid and others are not. This can depend on statutory obligations and on the terms and conditions set out in the Contract of Employment. Annual Leave is a statutory entitlement and it must be paid by the
employer. Sick Leave, however, is not always paid by the employer (this depends on individual company policies).

Force Majeure

Force Majeure Leave is less commonly discussed. The purpose of Force Majeure Leave is to provide limited, paid leave to enable an employee to deal with family emergencies resulting from injury or illness of a close family member. Force Majeure Leave applies where the immediate presence of the employee is urgent and indispensable (essential).

 

 

A close family member is defined as one of the following:

  • A child or adopted child of the employee
  • The husband/wife/partner (same or opposite sex) of the employee
  • A parent/grandparent of the employee
  • A brother/sister of the employee
  • A person to whom the employee has a duty of care (where he or she is acting in loco parentis)
  • A person in a relationship of domestic dependency with the employee
  • Persons of any other class (if any) as may be prescribed

 

Force Majeure Leave

 

By its nature, an employee will not usually be able to give notice of the need to take Force Majeure Leave. The employee should, however, inform the employer (in writing) of reasons for taking the leave as soon as is reasonable practicable. The employee should provide details regarding the need for the leave and should confirm who the leave was taken in respect of.

Employers are obliged to keep a record of Force Majeure Leave taken by employees.

Employees will be entitled to:

 

          -   up to 3 days paid Force Majeure Leave in any consecutive 12 month period; or     

          -   up to 5 days in a 36 consecutive month period.   

Absence for part of a day is usually counted as a full day of Force Majeure Leave. Employees are entitled to receive pay for this type of leave. Employers can grant employees more than the number of days outlined above; however, they are not obliged to do so.

Employees are protected against Unfair Dismissal for taking Force Majeure Leave or for proposing to take it.

Death is not covered under Force Majeure Leave – Leave taken when a death occurs falls under Compassionate Leave and this tends to depend on employee contracts as well as custom and practice within the workplace.

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Confidentiality is Paramount

Confidentiality refers to a situation in which information must be kept secret or private. Confidentiality is extremely important in most businesses as companies deal with sensitive information on a regular basis. This sensitive/secret data could relate to classified projects, clients, suppliers, employees, company finances, trade practices/agreements or a number
of other areas. For several reasons, it is imperative that this type of information remains confidential and that it is only accessible to approved/authorised individuals and groups.

Employers who deal with confidential matters, or who want their employees to use discretion with certain details that they learn throughout the course of their employment, should discuss confidentiality in their Employee Handbook.

Employee Handbook, Confidentiality

An Employee Handbook, often referred to as the employee manual, is a document containing information about the Company and its policies and procedures. It is given to employees by
their Manager/Employer and employees should have to acknowledge (in writing) that they have read and understand it.

This manual is an excellent place to compile all important information pertaining to the Company rules and regulations. It can provide very useful details for new staff during the induction process; however, it can also be a good reference point for existing employees. An Employee Handbook gives clarity to employees, advises them in many situations and creates a culture where problems are addressed in a consistent and fair manner. Employees will know what to expect in certain scenarios because a comprehensive employee handbook outlines all of the relevant procedures.

An Employee Handbook communicates workplace and HR policies and can protect a business from expensive disputes with employees.

Some examples of items that should be discussed in the Employee Handbook are as follows:

  • Annual Leave Entitlements
  • Maternity Leave
  • Performance Management
  • Probation
  • Discipline
  • Bullying and Harassment
  • Drugs/Smoking Policies
  • Dress Code

Confidentiality, Policies and Procedures, Employee Handbook

 

Where relevant, confidentiality and employer expectations surrounding this should also be included in an Employee Handbook.

Employers should ensure that employees keep the following sensitive information confidential -       

 

•       Information that has been acquired during, or in the course of employment, or has otherwise been acquired by the employee in confidence;  

                                                                           
•       Information that relates to customers, suppliers or that of other persons or bodies with whom the Company has dealings of any sort;

•        Information that has not been made public by, or with Company permission.

The Employer should ensure that all such information should remain confidential, and, save in the course of business or as required by law, should ensure that employees know that they are 
not allowed to disclose the data to any person without the Company’s prior written consent (whether before or after the termination of employment).

Employees should have to exercise reasonable care to keep safe all documentary or other material containing confidential information. Employees should also be obliged to return any such material in their possession to the Company at the time of termination of employment, or at any other time upon demand.

Mimimum Notice Guide

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