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17
Oct 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

Should employers pay staff that missed work due to Ophelia?

As Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland yesterday bringing with it a red status weather warning across the country, many Irish businesses closed their doors advising staff to stay at home. The decision came after it was announced that all schools and universities were to shut for the duration of the weather warning. Transport services across the nation were cancelled, while major supermarkets chains and large stores closed their doors.

Are employers obliged to pay an employee during this time?

Where an employer closes its doors for the day or has asked the employee not to come into work/or leave early due to safety concerns, then the employee should be paid as normal.

However, if the business were to remain open but the employee was unable to make the journey to work, or if a parent had to remain at home to look after their children when the schools are closed, then strictly speaking in these circumstances the employer has no obligation to pay the employee. We would advise employers to be as flexible as possible in these situations and to consider the effect it may have on staff morale if you were to deduct pay due to circumstances beyond the employee's control.

So what options are there for employers when employees miss work due to bad weather?

• To pay staff as normal for the time off
• To allow employees to work from home where possible
• To allow employees to work up the time missed at a later date
• To allow employees to be paid from their paid annual leave entitlement. It should be noted that although a good solution, forcing this option without prior agreement with the employee is not best practice.

Employers are advised to have a policy in place to cover absence due to inclement weather events addressing what would happen in the event of an employee being unable to attend work due to bad weather conditions. Including such a policy in your company handbook and ensuring all staff is aware of it will limit confusion and disagreements when such situations arise.

To book a free online demo of Bright Contracts click here
To download your free Bright Contracts trial click here

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Customer Update, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Health & Safety, Pay/Wage, Sick Leave/Absence Management, Staff Handbook

11
Oct 17

Posted by
Audrey Mooney

Budget 2018 - Employer Payroll Focus

Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

  • There was no change to tax rates for 2018, the standard rate will remain at 20% and the higher rate at 40%.
  • Standard Rate Cut Off Points (SRCOPs) will be increased by €750 from 1st January 2018.

Emergency Basis of PAYE

Employee provides PPS Number:

Where an employee does not provide their PPS Number the higher rate of 40% tax applies to all earnings.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit will be increased by €200 from €950 to €1,150.

Home Carer Tax Credit

The Home Carer Tax Credit will be increased from €1,100 to €1,200.

Universal Social Charge (USC)

  • Exemption threshold remains at €13,000
  • 2.5% rate reduced to 2%, threshold for this rate increased from €18,772 to €19,372
  • 5% rate reduced by 0.25% to 4.75%
  • No change to 8% rate

Medical card holders and individuals aged 70 years and older whose aggregate income does not exceed €60,000 will pay a maximum rate of 2%.

The emergency rate of USC remains at 8%.

PRSI & USC

The Minister outlined his intention to establish a working group in 2018 to carry out a review of the possible integration of PRSI and USC.

National Training Levy

The National Training Levy of 0.7% which is currently collected as part of the employer PRSI contribution will increase to fund further and higher education, the increases are as follows:

  • 0.8% in 2018
  • 0.9% in 2019
  • 1% in 2020

Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI)

There were no changes to general PRSI thresholds or employee PRSI announced in the Budget. However, as the National Training Levy is increasing and it is collected as part of the employer PRSI contribution, employer PRSI will increase as follows:

  • 8.5% increased to 8.6%
  • 10.75% increased to 10.85%

Benefit in Kind (BIK) - Electric Cars

A 0% rate of BIK will apply to electric vehicles provided by an employer to an employee in 2018 which is available for private use. Electricity used by the employee in the workplace to charge the car will also be exempt from BIK.

PAYE Modernisation

PAYE Modernisation will be effective from 1st January 2019. Budget 2018 has allocated €50 million for a project to enhance Revenue's IT capacity and to ensure employer compliance.

National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage will increase from €9.25 to €9.55 per hour in respect of hours worked on or after 1st January 2018.

  • Workers under age 18 will be entitled to €6.69 per working hour
  • Workers in their first year of employment over the age of 18 will be entitled to €7.64 per working hour
  • Workers in their second year of employment over the age of 18 will be entitled to €8.60 per working hour

Social Welfare Payments

There will be a €5 increase in all weekly Social Welfare payments with effect from 26th March 2018. The maximum personal rate of Illness Benefit will be increased to €198 per week. Maternity Benefit and Paternity Benefit will be increased to €240 per week.

Posted in Customer Update

3
Oct 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

Be careful of age discrimination in job adverts

Age discrimination in job advertisements has become an increased issue recently and employers need to ensure they are acting lawfully under the Employment Equality Act, 1998. Such discrimination can be seen in advertisements that exclude people applying for certain roles based on their age. Specifically advertising for younger or older people not only limits your chances of finding the right candidate but also discriminates against people of certain ages and a claim can be made against you to an employment tribunal.

Ambitious Young People

Using phrases like “ambitious young people” or “youthful and energetic” straightaway excludes people from a certain age bracket to apply for these roles. These phrases clearly deter older, suitable persons from applying for such roles. With thousands of job advertisements asking for “recent graduates” it discriminates against someone who may have graduated over 10 years ago, but would also be highly suited for the position.

5+ Years’ Experience

Many young people are finding job advertisements that show clear signs of age discrimination impossible barriers to apply for these roles and getting a foot on the career ladder. If a job advertisement asks the candidate to have 5 years + experience in a particular role it could be seen as discriminating against someone who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to gain that experience as they are too young.

Learning Points

When writing a job advertisement it must be carefully written so that the criteria for the role doesn’t make it impossible for, or discourage a certain age group to apply. There are special circumstances where you may look for a particular age group to apply, and in these instances, you must have a justifiable reason or certain necessary requirements of the role and these must be clearly included in the advertisement.

For further information on how to avoid discrimination in your recruitment process please see here.

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook

25
Sep 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

What to be aware of when completing a reference check

As an employer, there will undoubtedly come a time that you will be asked to provide a reference check for a previous employee to their potential new employer. If you have a standout employee with plenty of praise for them, then providing their reference check may seem like a doddle, but if you have an employee that parted on bad terms the reference check can be less than straightforward.

Why you should be careful completing a reference check

You have a duty of care to provide a truthful reference check to potential employers – but this may come at a price. Be aware that you run the risk of being sued for defamation if a negative reference that was given cannot be verified. A new employer can also claim against you if an employee who you gave a great reference for turns out to be less than satisfactory.

What can you do to protect yourself?

• You are under no obligation to provide a reference check for employees. If you wish to refrain from providing reference checks you may include a policy in your staff handbook stating this.

• If you are willing to provide reference checks you may adopt a policy to keep it brief and only divulge factual information, including:

- Dates of employment
- Job title
- Relationship to the candidate
- Final Salary

• If you are happy to provide a full reference check for an employee and answer behavioral questions regarding their work ethic, attitude, timekeeping etc. ensure that all the information you provide is factual and true.

When you adopt a reference check policy that best fits your business, the key then is to be consistent. What you do for one employee you must do for all. Inconsistency could leave you wide open to a discrimination claim from a disgruntled employee. Be sure to include the policy in your staff handbook and make all employees aware of it.

Also, see…Top Tips for Reference Check Questions

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Update, SME, Staff Handbook

19
Sep 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

4 Reasons why contracts of employment are needed

We’ve heard all the excuses before; “I’m too busy and don’t have the time”, “It’s too expensive to implement contracts”, or “I only have four employees, I don’t need to provide employment contracts”. If you are an employer you are obliged to provide your employees with a written statement of terms of employment.

We have compiled the 4 most important reasons why contracts of employment are needed.

It is a legal requirement

Under the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994-2014, as an employer you must provide a written contract of employment to a new staff member no later than 2 months after their commencement. Employers must also provide employees with written disciplinary procedures, and procedures that the employer will follow when dismissing an employee, within 28 days of the employee starting. These procedures may be included in the employment contract or in the company handbook.

Protect your business against costly disputes

Having contracts of employment in place offers your business protection in the case of a dispute. A dispute can escalate to the WRC, where not having clearly documented terms of employment can really leave you wide open as an employer. If you are found not to have contracts of employment in place for your staff you will face a fine of 4 weeks’ pay per employee. In the case of a dispute, employers could face fines equating to two years remuneration - the maximum compensation award.

Protect your company against WRC inspections

Approximately 5,000 workplace inspections are carried out by the WRC every year, with 60% of them being unannounced. During a WRC inspection, the first thing they will ask to see is a copy of your contracts of employment. In 2016, 62% of employers failed to keep adequate employment records. Inspectors may issue on the spot fines for amounts up to €2,000 where they have reasonable cause to believe that a person has committed a relevant offence.

Instills confidence in you and your employees

In terms of the employer/employee relationship, the contract of employment is the most important thing you’ll ever deal with. It is the foundation stone of the employer/employee relationship. Having contracts of employment in place will clarify certain conditions for you and your employee so that both parties are aware of what is expected of them. Having contracts in place will also instill confidence in you, knowing that you are doing everything you can do to protect yourself and your business in any situation that may arise.

It is never too late to put contracts of employment in place. Read our blog “How can I introduce contracts to existing employees?” and follow our 4 simple steps here.

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employee Records, Employment Contract, Employment Tribunals, NERA, Pay/Wage, Sick Leave/Absence Management, SME, Staff Handbook, Wages

11
Sep 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

Employee awarded maximum unfair dismissal compensation

The Labor Court has recently ruled that a driver was unfairly dismissed after he was involved in three road accidents. The driver was awarded €72,042, equating to two years remuneration - the maximum compensation which could be awarded.

Background

Mr. Coughlan was employed as a van driver for DHL for 11 years. In 2012 he was involved in a road accident to which he received a written warning. In 2013 he was involved in a second road accident where he received a final warning. The warnings were ‘live’ for 12 months, after which they expired. The claimant was involved in a third road accident in 2015 to which damages to the van amounted to €2,500. By that time both previous warnings had expired and he was brought into a disciplinary hearing for “failure to protect and safeguard company property”.

During the hearing Mr. Coughlan took responsibility for his misjudgment which led to the accident. Throughout the hearing numerous references were made to the expired incidents. Mr. Coughlan was dismissed with immediate effect for gross misconduct on the basis that he had failed to protect and safeguard company property.

Finding

The WRC found the dismissal unreasonable and ordered reinstatement. At the appeal to the Labor Court, DHL argued that they had no other choice but to dismiss Mr. Coughlan as their faith in his driving abilities was lost. Although his previous warnings had expired, the company felt that they had to take his entire working history into consideration. The Court determined that the 2015 incident, in isolation to the previous warnings was not sufficient to dismiss. It also took into consideration the company’s failure to consider alternative positions within the organisation for Mr. Coughlan.

Learning Points

This case highlights something we see time again, the importance of practicing fair procedures when considering dismissal. It highlights the importance of employers showing that they had considered alternative roles where possible before dismissal – something that is often noted in unfair dismissal cases. Lastly, the enormous amount awarded to Mr. Coughlan reminds employers of the costly consequence unfair dismissal can have on their business.

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Tribunals, Health & Safety, Pay/Wage, Staff Handbook

5
Sep 17

Posted by
Laura Murphy

The dangers of dismissing an employee during probation

Recruitment is tricky, and with any new hire there is an element of risk involved; will they work out, is their experience what they say it is, will they fit-in with the team? In the unfortunate instances where things do not work out, it can be problematic for an employer, particularly a small employer. 

A Common Misconception

A common misconception is that if an employee is on probation and things are not working out, that they can be dismissed without regard. This is not the case and can leave employers wide open to a claim against them. There are a number of employment cases that illustrate this and serve as good case studies for employers. In the case of Glenpatrick Water Coolers Limited v. a worker, the Labour Court recommended that the employer pay €6,500 to an employee who was unfairly dismissed whilst on probation. Whilst the Court recognised the inclusion in the contract that normal disciplinary procedures did not apply during the probationary period, the court insisted that fair procedures must still apply. More significantly, an engineer was awarded €33,400 having been dismissed 2 months into his probation period. In both of the above cases, the courts highlighted the employer's’ total failure to adhere to the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary procedures.

Be Aware

Whilst an employee is not protected by the Unfair Dismissals Act until they have accrued one year's’ service, claims for unfair dismissal can be brought under the Industrial Relations Act. Employers should be aware that although dismissal during probation is possible, it does not give employers a free-hand to act as they please. Fair procedures and natural justice should always be respected.

To view our full Essential Guide to Managing Probation click here

To view our Sample Probation Letters click here

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Tribunals, SME, Staff Handbook

30
Aug 17

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

The importance of having an Absence/Sick Leave Policy

As an employer, it can be quite a daunting prospect having to deal with sick leave and long-term sick leave can throw up other issues making it seem more complicated and even more daunting for the employer to deal with effectively. So how can an employer ensure compliance during these periods of absence?

First and foremost an Absence/Sick Leave Policy needs to be put in place. It must contain clear and concise guidelines for the employee and employer to follow in cases of absence

Your Absence Policy should include:

1. Details of any company Sick Pay Policy:

  • If an employer will/will not pay employee while on certified/uncertified sick leave.
  • If payments are to be made, length of term for payments.

2. Notification and certification requirements if employees are absent due to illness:

  • How much notice an employee needs to give an employer if they will be absent from work.
  • After how many days of absence a medical certificate is required.
  • For long-term absences, how often a medical certificate is required to be presented to the employer.

3. A statement that in the case of long-term absence due to illness, the employee may be required to attend a company GP or other nominated medical persons/facilities at the request of the employer.

It would also be advisable to include details on what is classed as being short-term, long-term and unauthorised absences - Unauthorised leave is absence by the employee without consent or approval from management or without proof of illness by means of a doctors certificate and should be dealt with as a matter of misconduct via the company disciplinary procedures.

As with most company policies and procedures, once in place, the employees will be aware of what is expected of them during times of absence or sick leave; this, in turn, should eliminate any further issues from arising.

Bright Contracts has a comprehensive Absence and Sick Leave Policy built into the Company Handbook which can be customised to suit your own company specifications and requirements.

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employee Records, Employment Contract, Pay/Wage, Sick Leave/Absence Management, Staff Handbook

24
Aug 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

Employee reasonably dismissed after leaving a charity van outside a pub overnight

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found that an employee had been fairly dismissed after he left a charity van, displaying the charity’s logo, parked outside a pub overnight. The van was recovered from the car park the following day when the worker telephoned a colleague and asked that they retrieve it. However, the worker was suspended with full pay, pending investigation, when he returned to work on Monday. The following month, as a result of the investigation the employee was dismissed.

Investigation

The worker had been employed at with the charity for less than a year, and therefore did not meet the requirement of having 1 years’ service in order to make a claim for unfair dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2015. The case instead was brought under the Industrial Relations Acts 1969, investigating a dispute between an employer and employee, and whether natural justice and fair procedures were followed during the investigation and dismissal.

The employee argued that he was subject to an unfair investigation and was dismissed for taking a charity van home, which he claimed was customary among employees to do in order to facilitate work routes the following day. He added that he had received an urgent phone call from his mother regarding the hospitalisation of his father and that the only way he could assist in taking his mother to the hospital was by using the charity’s van.

The employer argued that as a charity, in a time where voluntary contributions are increasingly under scrutiny that their public image is of the utmost importance. They noted that they had a vehicle policy in place and that the absence of a company van for over 24 hours was unacceptable. The employer also argued that during the disciplinary process “a female manager had become frightened by suggestions that the complainant would call to her home address”.

Finding

The adjudication officer found:

“Taking in mind the open admission of the complainant that he had taken the van home and the extensive nature of the investigation and proper appeal procedures, I came to the view that the dismissal decision was in the band of reasonableness for an employer in the charity/voluntary sector concerned.”

Learning Points

It is important to note that although an employee cannot make a claim for unfair dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2015 if they have less than 1 years’ service, employers must ensure that natural justice and fair procedures are followed at all times. We can also see from this case how having clear policies and procedures in place is extremely important, particularly to assist protecting your business against a possible claim.

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook

17
Aug 17

Posted by
Victoria Clarke

Paternity Leave – Uptake lower than expected

In September 2016, fathers of children born in Ireland became eligible for the first time to take up to two weeks’ paternity leave and to receive Paternity Benefit from the Department of Social Protection. Statistics collated from the first few months of the scheme show, however, that just one in four fathers eligible for the scheme chose to avail of it. This is in stark contrast to the expectation that 60% of eligible fathers would avail of the scheme when it was first announced.

Just over 5,000 paternity benefit applications were awarded during the first three months of the scheme going live, with County Longford, Kerry, Roscommon, and Clare having the fewest applicants. A larger uptake, however, was seen in County Dublin, Cork and Kilkenny.

A further 7,500 paternity benefit claims were subsequently awarded in the first four months of 2017. Under the new scheme, eligible fathers are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave. The two-week leave can be taken at any point within 28 weeks of the birth or adoption of a child, but the two weeks must be taken together.

A social welfare benefit of €235 per week is paid for the two weeks. It is at an employer’s discretion if they wish to top up this payment to the full weekly wage normally earned by the employee. Despite the low uptake so far, it is hoped that the number of applicants will increase as the scheme enters its second year in September.

Current statistics also don’t reflect fathers who may be delaying their paternity leave, for example, fathers whose child was born on February 28 this year can take it at any time up to September 1, 2017.

Guidance on how employers should treat Paternity Benefit and when it should be entered in Thesaurus Payroll Manager can be found here: https://www.thesaurus.ie/docs/2017/paternity-benefit/taxation-of-paternity-benefit/

Related article: Equality for working Dads with new Paternity Leave

Posted in Annual Leave, Parental Leave

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