Doing business in Ireland: Staff welfare23 April 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 23 April 2012
Irish employment law and practice is based on a number of sources including Irish and EU-based legislation, decisions of the courts and custom and practice in this area.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) is the lead government department in this area.
The proposed Employment Law Consolidation Bill in 2009 is intended to simplify and codify employment law spanning more than 60 years.
The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) strives for a national culture of employment law rights compliance. It was created as a result of the "Towards 2016" Social Partnership Agreement.
You must ensure your employees receive certain basic employment rights.
It is considered necessary to introduce certain policies and procedures within a company, such as discipline, grievance, or dignity at work (including bullying and harassment). Others such as data protection and absence policies are considered best practice. This will vary in importance for employers depending on the type of business involved.
Non-discrimination, equal treatment and gender equality
In Ireland the Employment Equality Act aims to promote equality by prohibiting discrimination on nine grounds:
- marital status;
- family status;
- sexual orientation;
- religious belief;
- membership of the Traveller community.
Health and safety at work
You are required by law to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work, of your employees. The principal legislation in force is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. Breaches of this legislation may be subject to penalties including "on-the-spot" fines.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) administers and enforces a wide range of occupational safety and health and dangerous substances legislation and associated codes of practice. The HSA carries out its activities under the authority of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) and the Minister for Labour Affairs.
People are taken on under either contracts of service or contracts for services. Only a person hired under a contract of service will be an employee and therefore protected by the full range of employment legislation.
Although full employment contracts do not have to be in writing, some terms and conditions of employment must be put in writing under the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994, within two months of starting employment. These typically include the method of calculating pay and whether or not there is a sick pay scheme in operation, among other conditions.
If a contractor is freelance or self-employed, he/she will have a contract for services with the party the work is being done for. The type of contract a person works under can have serious implications for both employer and employee in matters such as employment protection legislation, legal responsibility for injuries caused to members of the public, taxation and social welfare.
Employees should also receive a written statement of pay or 'payslip'. The payslip should set out gross pay and list all deductions made from it, under the Payment of Wages Act 1991.
Labour relations and Labour protection
You must also pay a Minimum wage - most experienced adult workers in Ireland are entitled to be paid €8.65 per hour gross. There are however some exceptions to the minimum wage, including those employed by close relatives, those aged under 18 and trainees or apprentices.
There are also certain industries in Ireland where a higher minimum wage applies, including the construction industry.
You must ensure that employees are given adequate rest. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 sets down the rules governing maximum working hours, daily and weekly rest breaks, annual leave and public holiday entitlements.
You are obliged to allow employees (who meet relevant qualifying criteria, if any) to take certain statutory protective leave, such as maternity, health and safety, parental, adoptive and carer's leave. There is specific legislation setting out the rules for each entitlement.
Your obligations and duties as regards providing and maintaining a safe working place and safe working practices are covered by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. The Act includes provision for the instruction, training and supervision of employees in this area.
Both employees and employers are obliged to give notice in the case of termination of employment.
Employees who have been in continuous employment for at least 13 weeks are obliged to provide their employer with one week's notice of termination of employment. If a greater amount of notice is specified in the employee's contract of employment, then this notice must be given.
You must give employees notice dependent on the length of the employee's service. If you do not require the employee to work out any part of their notice, you are obliged to pay the employee for that period.
The Labour Relations Commission (LRC) provides a number of services including a Workplace Mediation Service.
The Rights Commissioners service operates under the LRC but is independent in its functions. The Rights Commissioners investigate disputes, grievances and claims that individuals or small groups of workers bring under specific legislation.
Employees who think their employment rights have been infringed can refer a claim to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
The Labour Court provides a service for the resolution of industrial relations disputes and deals also with matters arising under employment equality, organisation of working time, national minimum wage, and part-time work legislation. It is not a court of law but operates as an industrial relations tribunal.
Mandatory social rules complete the requirements related to managing staff.
Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum social legal requirements at their own initiative.
Non-discrimination, equal treatment and gender equality
The Equality Tribunal, the Labour Court and the Circuit Court all have roles in relation to claims of discrimination. All claims (except for gender discrimination claims) must be referred in the first instance to the Equality Tribunal (Gender discrimination claims have the option of going to the Circuit Court).
The Equality Tribunal is the quasi-judicial body established to investigate, hear and decide on claims for discrimination.
Health and safety at work
You/your company must have either a Safety Statement or an Approved Code of Practice. The Safety Statement spells out how safety and health is managed in the workplace.
Health and Safety Authority (HSA) Inspectors carry out reactive and pro-active inspections of workplaces.
It is your responsibility as the employer/manager to ensure that your employees are safe and safety aware.
You must pay a Pay-related Social Insurance (PRSI) contribution in respect of full-time employees and part-time employees. The payment consists of an employer's and, where due, an employee's share of PRSI. The PRSI contribution is a percentage of the employee's reckonable earnings. It may be made up of some or all of the following parts:
- Social Insurance;
- Health Levy;
- National Training Fund Levy.
You can register for Employer's PAYE (Pay As You Earn) / PRSI (Pay Related Social Insurance) with the Revenue service.
You are not legally bound to pay an employee who is off work sick. As an employer you can formulate your own policy on sick pay. However some industries are covered by registered employment agreements (REA's) and Employment Regulation Orders (ERO's), which may contain regulations regarding sick pay.
All accidents in the workplace should be reported to the employer. You must then record the details of the incident. You, the employer, are also obliged to report any accident that results in an employee missing three consecutive days at work (not including the day of the accident) to the Health and Safety Authority.
An employee who has suffered an injury at work cannot seek compensation from you, the employer, under healthy and safety legislation but they can make a personal injury claim through InjuriesBoard.ie. The Board gives an independent assessment of personal injury claims for compensation following an accident (only in cases where the liability/legal issues are not disputed). If either you (the employer), or the employee rejects the assessment the Board will issue an authorisation allowing the employee to make a claim through the civil courts.
Ireland's National Employment Rights Authority has produced a helpful guide for employers.
The HSA provides a toolkit for small businesses, "Simple Safety " which is a series of practical tools designed to help you improve your workplace health and safety and reduce accidents. The toolkit includes data sheets highlighting the main issues to watch out for and briefing notes for staff training on safety.
The HSA also has a range of other documents for download including information on safety in specific industrial sectors.
Business access to state information and services (BASIS) delivers government information and services to businesses online. The information is structured around the lifecycle of a business.
Source: Your Europe