Anyone with a business that employs staff in Ireland needs both a good understanding of employment law and access to good legal advice. Employments are affected by a wide range of statutes and other sources of law which can often be difficult to navigate.
Most statutory rights apply to those employed under a contract of service and not those who are self-employed or independent contractors. Fixed term and part-time workers and those employed temporarily via an agency are covered by the relevant employment legislation.
We summarise some of the key areas of employment law below.
The fundamental part of any employment is the contract as it sets the terms of the employer/employee relationship. A written statement of terms must be furnished to the employee within two months of an employee starting in a new job. It must cover particular details regarding their place work, the nature of the work to be completed, commencement date, working hours, holidays and so on.
It is important to note that within the first five days of a new employee starting work they must be given a document setting out:
- the name of the employer and employee,
- the address of the employer’s principal place of business,
- their rate of pay,
- the number of hours which the employer reasonably expects the employee to work (1) per normal working day and (2) per normal working week
- if the contract is temporary, the expected duration, or if for a fixed term, the termination date.
Not providing this statement within five days is a criminal offence.
Like many other countries there are strict rules about treating employees fairly. Under the Employment Equality Acts it is unlawful to discriminate on the following:
- Marital or civil status
- Family status
- Sexual orientation
- Membership of the traveller community
Discrimination can be direct or indirect and can apply to promotions, interviews and access to employment, pay, training opportunities etc.
Termination of employment
There are minimum statutory notice periods which vary according to the amount of service completed. These can be varied by the contract however can never be less than the statutory minimum. Rights to notice can be waived or payment can be accepted in lieu of notice.
The Unfair Dismissal Acts allows an employee to challenge a termination of their employment where certain criteria are met. If the dismissal is found to be unfair the employee may be entitled to reinstatement, reengagement or more likely compensation for loss of earnings.
Workplace health and safety
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act provides mutual obligations for employees and employers to ensure a safe workplace. Employees enjoy a number of rights under the Act and are expressly protected from dismissal and penalisation by an employer for making a complaint or representation to the employer concerning matters relating to safety, health or welfare at work.
Every employer must have a written Risk Assessment and Safety Statement identifying all potential hazards.
Infringements of the Act by an employer can lead to criminal sanctions.
Employers may not be expert in every aspect of employment law, however, they should have an understanding of their primary obligations, and be able to identify situations where a problem requires the advice of a professional. We have assisted many businesses in preventing, minimising and resolving workplace issues and strongly encourage employers to discuss potential problems with our experienced solicitors before they escalate.