Sunday, 13th October 2019

Employer Responsibilities

Pay Slips – Wage Deductions and Associated Employer Responsibilities

The Payment of Wages Act, 1991 forces employers to provide a pay slip in respect of all employees. A pay slip is a statement in writing that outlines the total pay before tax (gross pay) and all details of any deductions from pay. The employer’s responsibility regarding the required provision of pay slips is set down in Section 4 of the Act.

PaySlips

The Act protects against unlawful deductions from employee wages. 

Here are the important points for employers to remember:

-Deductions from employee wages must be authorised by either the employee’s contract of employment or by written consent of the employee – a trade union subscription, for instance.

-An exception to this is where the employer makes a deduction from pay when there is a need to recover an overpayment of wages or expenses.

-There is an obligation on the employer to make a deduction from an employee’s wages if they are required by a court order to do so - an example of this might be an Attachment of Earnings order in a family law case, for instance.

-The employer is entitled to make a deduction if the employee is due to make a payment to the employer –An example of this would be if expenses arose due to the employee being on strike.

 Employer Responsibilities, Payslips

 

On the other hand an improper deduction made by the employer is one which is not authorised.

-(Income tax, universal social charge and PRSI contributions are a separate category as they are compulsory deductions required by law).

-Where the deduction from wages arises because of either an act or omission of the employee - till shortages or breakages, for instance, or the supply of goods to the employee by the employer (cleaning of uniforms, perhaps) - then the amount of the deduction must be fair and reasonable.

-The amount of the deduction must not exceed the loss experienced or cost of the service.

-The deduction must take place within 6 months of the loss/cost occurring.

 Payslips

Failure to pay all or part of the wages due to an employee is considered an unlawful deduction and a complaint can be made under the Payment of Wages Act. Similarly, unpaid notice, holiday pay, bonus and commission payments can also form part of a claim under the Act.

GUIDE TO CONTRACTS OF EMPLOYMENT

 

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Under 18 Work Register – Employer Responsibilities

In accordance with the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996 employers are required to keep a register of employees that are under the age of 18. The basis for this is to guarantee the protection of young people and to ensure the workload assumed is not jeopardising their education.

Under 18 Workers

During a National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) assessment the inspector will request access to the company’s register of employees under the age of 18 (if the company employs workers in this category). 

There are strict rules that employers must adhere to when employing those under the age of 18.

According to the Act employers cannot employ children under the age of 16 in regular full-time jobs.

Children aged 14 and 15 may be employed on a controlled basis.

Some rules to pay attention to:

  • They can do light work during the school holidays – 21 days off must be given during this period.
  • They can be employed as part of an approved work experience or educational programme where the work is not harmful to their health, safety or development.
  • They can be employed in film, cultural/advertising work or sport under licences issued by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
  • Children aged 15 may do a maximum of 8 hours of light work per week during the school term. The maximum working week for children outside of the school term is 35 hours (or up to 40 hours if they are on approved work experience).
  • The maximum working week for children aged 16 and 17 is 40 hours with a maximum of 8 hours per day.

Young Workers

There are many obligations on the employer when he or she employs a young person – here is a list of some of the items that employers must be vigilant of:

An employer must be provided with a copy of the young person’s birth certificate (or other documentation proving age) prior to the commencement of employment.

Before employing a child an employer must obtain the written permission of the parent or guardian of the child.

An employer must maintain a register of employees under 18 containing the following information:

  • The full name of the young person or child
  • The date of birth of the young person or child
  • The time the young person or child commences work each day
  • The time the young person or child finishes work each day
  • The rate of wages or salary paid to the young person or child for his or her normal working hours each day, week, month or year, as the case may be, and
  • The total amount paid to each young person or child by way of wages or salary

An employer and parent/guardian who fails to comply with the provisions of the Act shall be guilty of an offence.

Some other notable rules the employer must adhere to when employing a young person or child are as follows:

Employer Responsibilities

 

  • The employer is obliged to ensure that the young person receives a minimum rest period of 12 consecutive hours in each period of 24 hours.
  • The employer is obliged to ensure that the young person receives a minimum rest period of 2 days which shall, where possible, be consecutive, in any 7 day period.
  • The employer cannot require or permit the young person to do work for any period without a break of at least 30 consecutive minutes.

For a comprehensive guide to employer responsibilities and the rules and regulations governing the employment of young workers please refer to the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996

 

Under 18s Register

 

 

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Public Holiday Pay in Ireland

With St. Patrick’s Day and Easter Monday fast approaching we thought you might find some information on Public Holidays and the relevant employer obligations/responsibilities around pay useful!

Bank Holiday

There are 9 Public Holidays in Ireland each year - they are:  

New Year's Day (1 January)

•St. Patrick's Day (17 March)

•Easter Monday (Changes every year)

•The first Monday in May, June & August

•The last Monday in October

•Christmas Day (25 December)

•St. Stephen's Day (26 December)

Here is a breakdown of the statutory outline of Public Holiday Entitlements under Irish Employment Legislation:

Did you know that employees scheduled to work on a Public Holiday are entitled to an additional day's pay for the day? Calculating Public Holiday pay can be tricky. Below we explain the rules for the different categories of employee.

Bank Holidays Firstly, let's take “Employee A” as an example – “Employee A” works on the day the Public Holiday falls - let's say “Employee A” is a retail store employee and is required to work on St. Stephen's day as it is the first day of the store's seasonal sale - On a normal working day “Employee A” earns €100.

This means that “Employee A” is entitled to receive the usual €100 for the hours worked on the Public Holiday as well as an additional €100 - So “Employee A” receives €200 for working on the Public Holiday. If there is any ambiguity in ascertaining what an additional day's pay should equal the employer should look at the last day worked prior to the Public Holiday.

“Employee B” represents an employee who is normally scheduled to work on a day that a Public Holiday falls but is not required to work on that day (for example - an administrative assistant in a bank who typically works 09:00-17:00 Monday – Friday, who is not required to work on Easter Monday).

“Employee B” should receive their normal day's pay for that day as well as not being required to work on the Public Holiday. On a normal working day “Employee B” receives €100. When a Public Holiday falls “Employee B” will not be required to work on this day as the business is closed. “Employee B” will still receive their normal day’s pay of €100 as well as the day off.

Public Holidays


 

The one that can cause the most confusion is the case of “Employee C”

Employees who are not normally scheduled to work on the Public Holiday will receive one-fifth of their normal weekly pay for the day. “Employee C”, for instance, works Wednesday – Friday and receives €100 per day in remuneration. If a Public Holiday falls on a Tuesday, even though “Employee C” never works that day he or she still has the right to benefit from the Public Holiday in some way.

“Employee C” is still entitled to be paid a certain amount as a benefit for the Public Holiday (one-fifth of their normal weekly pay). If this employee earns €300 per three day week (Wednesday-Friday) they are entitled to earn an additional €60 during a week where a Public Holiday falls on a Monday or Tuesday.

Bank Hols

 

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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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What employers need to know about Work Permits

Employers, as you may be aware, the National Employment Right’s Authority (NERA) conducts thousands of inspections (many of which are unannounced) annually. It is within NERA’s remit to investigate your compliance with Irish Immigration and Employment Permit legislation.

NERA 

 

Did you know that employers could be seriously penalised for employing individuals who do not have valid employment permits?

 

•             The Employment Permits Acts 2003 to 2006 make it a criminal offence for a foreign national to work without an employment permit. Employers are committing an offence themselves if they employ a foreign national without a valid work permit.

•             The Acts place an onus on the employer to carry out checks in order to be satisfied that a prospective employee does not require an employment permit, and, if he or she does, that they have obtained one.

•             NERA inspectors are authorised to exercise powers under the Employment Permit Acts. If, during an inspection, NERA finds evidence showing that an employee does not have a valid employment permit, both the employer and employee are advised of the need to correct the situation. They are also informed of the consequences of failing to do so.

•             An employer failing to rectify matters could be prosecuted. NERA commenced initiating proceedings under S.2 of the 2003 Act in 2012.

•             An Garda Síochána are also an enforcement authority under Employment Permits legislation with prosecution powers.

describe the image

Who needs an Employment Permit?

According to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, a non-EEA national (except in the cases listed below) requires an employment permit to take up employment in Ireland. The EEA comprises the Member States of the European Union together with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Employment permit (or work permit) holders are only allowed to work for the employer and in the occupation named on the permit. If the holder of an employment permit ceases to work for the employer named on the permit during the permit’s period of validity, the original permit (along with the certified copy) must be returned immediately to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.

Citizens of non-EEA countries who do not require Employment Permits include:describe the image

 

•             Non-EEA nationals in the State on a Work Authorisation/Working Visa

•             Van der Elst Case The European Court of Justice delivered a judgement on the Van der Elst Case (Freedom to Provide Services) on 9 August, 1994. The Court ruled that in the case of non-EEA workers legally employed in one Member State who are temporarily sent on a contract to another Member State, the employer does not need to apply for employment permits in respect of the non-nationals for the period of contract.

•             Non-EEA nationals who have been granted permission to remain in the State on one of the following grounds:

•             Permission to remain as spouse or a dependent of an Irish/EEA national;

•             Permission to remain as the parent of an Irish citizen;

•             Temporary leave to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds, having been in the Asylum process.

•             Explicit permission from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to remain resident and employed in the State

•             Appropriate business permission to operate a business in the State

•             A non-EEA national who is a registered student

Swiss Nationals: In accordance with the terms of the European Communities and Swiss Confederation Act, 2001, which came into operation on 1 June, 2002, this enables the free movement of worker between Switzerland and Ireland, without the need for Employment Permits.

 

It is imperative that every labour market opportunity is afforded to Irish and other EEA nationals in the first instance. This is also in accordance with EU obligations and recognises that Ireland's labour market is part of a much greater EEA labour market which affords a considerable supply of skilled workers.

Work Permits

 

An interesting point to note is that work permits will not be considered for certain occupations.

Since April 10th 2013 occupations listed as ineligible for work permits are as follows:

•             Hotel, tourism and catering staff except chefs

•             Work riders – horseracing

•             Clerical and administrative staff

•             Drivers (including HGV drivers)

•             Nursery/crèche workers, child minders/nannies

•             General operatives and labourers

•             Operator and production staff

•             Domestic workers including carers in the home and child-minders*

•             Retail sales staff, sales representatives and supervisory or specialist sales staff**

•             The following craft workers and apprentice/trainee craft workers: bookbinders, bricklayers, cabinet makers, carpenters/joiners, carton makers, fitters - construction plant, electricians, instrumentation craftspeople, fitters, tilers - floor/wall, mechanics - heavy vehicles, instrumentation craftspersons, metal fabricators, mechanics - motor, originators, painters and decorators, plumbers, printers, engineers - refrigeration, sheet metal workers, tool makers, vehicle body repairers, machinists - wood, plasterers and welders

* In exceptional circumstances an employment permit may be granted for a carer who is a medical professional caring for a person with a severe medical condition or for a carer who has a long caring relationship with a person with special needs where there are no alternative care options

** Specialist language support and technical or sales support with fluency in a non-EEA language in respect of those companies that have formal support from the State’s enterprise development agencies earning at least €27,000 a year may apply for a work permit.

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Whistleblowing in Ireland

In light of the Garda whistleblowing issues that have been unfolding in recent weeks, we thought employers might find some information on whistleblowing useful.

The Protected Disclosure Bill 2013, commonly known as the ‘Whistleblowers Bill’ was published on July 3rd 2013 by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, T.D. The Bill is to establish a comprehensive legislative framework protecting whistleblowers in all industries in Ireland.

Whistleblowing

The purpose of the Bill is to protect workers who raise concerns regarding wrongdoing (or potential wrongdoing) that they have become aware of one way or another in the workplace. The Bill will offer significant employment and other protections to whistleblowers if they suffer any penalties at the hands of their employer for coming forward with information of wrongdoing in their place of work.

The Bill, which is due to be enacted shortly, closely reflects best practices in whistleblowing protection in developed nations around the world.

According to Minister Howlin the Bill “should instil all workers with confidence that should they ever need to take that decisive step and speak-up on concerns that they have about possible misconduct in the workplace, they will find that society values their actions as entirely legitimate, appropriate and in the public interest”.

Whistleblowing

 

Some key elements included in the Bill are as follows:

Compensation of up to a maximum of five years remuneration can be awarded in the case of an Unfair Dismissal that came about as a result of making a protected disclosure. This would be a massive step forward in Ireland’s attempt to match the standards set by other established nations.

It is important to note that limitations relating to the length of service that usually apply in the case of Unfair Dismissals are set aside in the case of protected disclosures.

As a result of this Bill, whistleblowers will benefit from civil immunity from actions for damages and a qualified privilege under defamation law.

The legislation will provide a number of disclosure channels for potential whistleblowers and stresses that the disclosure, rather than the whistleblower, should be the focus of the attention.

Protections for the whistleblower remain in place even where the information disclosed does not reveal any wrongdoing when examined. Deliberate false reporting, however, will not be protected.

These measures, when enacted, should encourage more people to come forward, and feel comfortable doing so, when they become aware of (or suspect) any criminal activity, misconduct or wrongdoing in the workplace.

The Seanad Final Stage debate on the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 was held on the 20th November 2013 and the Bill was passed by the Seanad. The Bill, which may be subject to minor changes, will soon be debated and passed by the Dáil. Once it is signed by President Michael D. Higgins, the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 will come into operation and, according to Minister Howlin, he intends for the legislation to be “commenced immediately on its enactment”.

Employer Responsibilities

 

What should employers do?

As it will apply to all employees in Ireland once enacted; employers should establish and clearly communicate a comprehensive ‘whistleblowing’ policy to ensure that staff are aware of and understand the provisions of the Protected Disclosures Bill.

It is important that cultural issues and negative connotations surrounding whistleblowing are addressed within the company to ensure that employees adhere to the appropriate whistleblowing 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. 

 

 

Arrange Consultation

 

 

 

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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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