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24
Jul 18

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

Back to Basics - New Employees

We often get calls into the helpline requesting basic information on HR/Employment Law queries like how to deal with new starters or when should an employer invoke the disciplinary procedures, so we will look at some basic HR topics in a series of blogs starting today with new employees.


New Employees
• A new employee is required by law, under the Unfair Dismissal Act, to receive a copy of the company’s ‘Dismissal Procedures’, which are usually contained in the ‘Disciplinary/Grievance Procedures’ of the Staff or Company Handbook, within 28 days of starting work with the company.
• Under the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 the employer is obliged to furnish new employees within 2 months of starting, with a ‘Written Statement of ‘certain’ terms and conditions’ of their employment, also known as an ‘Employment Contract’.
• The new GDPR regulations specify that employers must provide their employees with information about what personal data they hold on them, for what purpose and how it was collected, who it may be shared with, what security measures are in place to keep it safe and what the employee’s rights are as well as other specific requirements. This is called an ‘Employee Privacy Policy’ or ‘Employee Privacy Notice’ and should be given to the employee as an addendum to their Employment Contract.

Based on these 3 pieces of legislation it would be best practice to provide your new starter with their Employment Contract, Privacy Policy and Staff/Company Handbook on their first day of work, if not before it. An employer can be fined up to 4 weeks pay for not providing the employee with their ‘Written Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment’ within the 2 month timeframe, so it is best to get into the habit of furnishing the documents as soon as possible.

There is no requirement for a signature from the employee on any of these documents; however it would be prudent of an employer to request a signature from the employee or at least some form of acknowledgement or proof of the employee receiving the documents.

The new Employment Bill 2017, yet to be introduced, stipulates that a new employee should receive some details of their terms of employment within 5 days of starting with a company but it is yet to be seen whether this aspect of the Bill will get the go ahead.

Bright Contracts offers employers a simple and user-friendly system which enables them to easily create and customize all of these documents and keep an electronic record on file. To download a Free Trial click here or book an online Demo of the Bright Contracts software.

 

Bright Contracts | Thesaurus Payroll Software | BrightPay Payroll Software

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

16
Jan 18

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

€15k awarded in discrimination case to pregnant employee

The Labour Court found that the sacking of a manager from Wrights of Howth’s Crabby Jo’s restaurant was tainted with discrimination and have awarded compensation of €15,000.

Background

The employee was on a 6 month probationary period when she was fired just 3 months into her employment, very shortly after informing her bosses that she was pregnant.

No issues had been raised about the employee’s performance, however poor work performance was used as the reason for her dismissal on the 15th of June. The employee felt that the atmosphere had changed completely after she had announced her pregnancy on the 8th of May, she had requested a meeting to discuss her concerns she had over this. She was given no opportunity to make any representations or defend her position and was simply informed, without warning, that her employment was terminated.

In its ruling, the court found that no issues had previously been raised about the employee’s performance prior to her notifying them that she was pregnant and she had not been subject to any disciplinary warnings or action. The court originally awarded €30,000 for discrimination based on gender, however this decision was appealed and a lesser figure of €15,000 compensation was awarded due to the manner of the dismissal and the serious lacking in adherence to the restaurant’s own disciplinary procedures.

Learning points

It is important to recognise that disciplinary procedures must be followed at all times, regardless of how simple or difficult a situation may seem to be. It can end up being a very expensive mistake for an employer. Bright Contracts has comprehensive Disciplinary and Grievance procedures, customisable to companies requirements, built into the software.

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Discrimination, Dismissals, Employee Handbook, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook, Workplace Relations Commission, WRC

22
Nov 17

Posted by
Marzena Ignar

Making an Employee Redundant

Redundancy is never an easy decision for an employer to make but there may come a time when circumstances arise which leave an employer with no alternative but to declare redundancies.

A redundancy situation can often arise in the following situations:

  • an employee’s job ceases to exist
  • the employer ceases to carry on the business
  • the requirement for employees has diminished
  • an employee is not skilled for work that is to be done

In the event of a redundancy, employees are covered under Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2014, if they meet the following requirements:

  • aged 16 or over
  • have at least 2 years continuous service (104 weeks)
  • are a full-time employee insurable under PRSI class A, or PRSI Class J for a part-time employee

How to calculate Statutory Redundancy Pay

Statutory Redundancy is payable at a rate of:

  • 2 weeks’ pay for each year of service. If the period of employment is not an exact number of years, the excess days are credited as a portion of a year
  • plus one week’s pay

The term ‘pay’ refers to the employee’s current normal gross weekly pay, including average regular overtime and benefits in kind. The above, however, is based on a maximum earnings limit of €600 per week (before PAYE, PRSI & USC).

An employer may also choose to pay a redundancy payment above the statutory minimum. In such circumstances, the statutory payment element will be tax free but some of the lump sum payment may be taxable. 

Employers should ensure that a redundancy policy is included in their company handbook and that all staff are aware of the procedures in place if redundancies were to arise. 

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

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Handbook, Staff Handbook, Wages

11
Nov 17

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

How to avoid harassment in the workplace

The recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein n the US have created somewhat of a snowball effect worldwide with thousands of women and men speaking out about their accounts of sexual harassment and assault, many of them being work related. Allegations involving high profile individuals and people in authority have demonstrated just how widespread a problem this has become across all industries and professions and has exposed a sinister culture of silence, fear and acceptance which we must now turn on its head.

The Employment Equality Acts clearly defines sexual harassment as: forms of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.

It is important for employers to ensure that harassment will not be tolerated and to portray this to their employees and clients. Employers are therefore compelled to take steps to ensure a harassment-free work environment. Effectively, organisations must set down clearly defined procedures to deal with all forms of harassment including sexual harassment.

There are a number of steps an employer can take to help prevent this type of behavior from occurring in the workplace:

A Bullying and Harassment policy 

  • to protect the dignity of employees and to encourage respect in the workplace

An Equal Opportunities policy 

  • to create a workplace which provides for Equal Opportunities for all staff

A Whistle-blowing policy 

  • to enable staff to voice concerns in a responsible and effective manner.

Transparent and fair procedures throughout 

Disciplinary action

  • A sanction that is appropriate for the level of alleged harassment – to help try and change the culture of silence that has allowed harassment to become normal and protected.

Provision of on-going training 

  • At all levels within organisation

Bright Contracts has a fully customisable Staff Handbook, which includes a Bullying and Harassment Policy and also an Equality Policy and Whistleblowing Policy.

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

Posted in Bullying and Harassment, Company handbook, Discrimination, Dismissals, Employee Handbook, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook, Workplace Relations Commission, WRC

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.

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, 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.

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, 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

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, 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.

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Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks

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

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