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17
May 18

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

WRC Annual Report 2017 – The Facts and Figures

The Work Place Relations Commission have published their third annual report, outlining the key performance metrics relating to complaints filed and decisions made across the employment realms.

One of the bigger achievements made by the WRC is a dramatic reduction in the length of time it takes to get a case to resolution. When the WRC was established in October 2015 it could take a case up to 2 years to secure an outcome whereas now, once submissions are received, it is taking less than 6 months.

Other Key Facts

• €1.8 million was recovered in unpaid wages; up €300,000 on the previous year
• 4750 workplace inspections were carried out, either announced or unannounced with over 99,000 employees covered by these inspections
• 14,001 complaints were received by WRC relating to:

  • Pay – 27%
  • Unfair Dismissal - 14% 
  • Discrimination and Equality - 11% 
  • Terms and Conditions of Employment – 8%

• Over 52,000 calls were received on the WRC information hotline, with just under half of these relating to employment permit queries.
• There were 4,370 adjudication hearing’s; up 24% on 2016

It is now almost three years since the formation of the WRC, and from the above figures it is clear that they are well into their stride and making significant inroads in terms of their objective of promoting the improvement of workplace relations, encouraging compliance with relevant employment and equality legislation. As such it is imperative that employer’s have the proper records in place in case of an inspection.

Solution

Bright Contracts allows the user to create and customise contracts of employment and company handbooks, this covers part of your obligation as an employer under current Employment Legislation.

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, Discrimination, Dismissals, Employment Tribunals, Wages, Workplace Relations Commission, WRC

4
Apr 18

Posted by
Lauren Conway

How long should you retain employee data under GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on 25th May 2018, legislation with new rules and guidelines on how to protect and process personal data. Employee personal data held may include: name, address, phone number, email address, emergency contact details, PPS number, bank account details etc.

The GDPR requires that when retaining and processing personal data there must be lawful reasoning for doing so. In terms of processing employee data employers are likely to rely on a number of lawful reasons, mainly: to fulfill contractual obligations, legal obligations or other legitimate interests. Under data protection legislation employee data should be kept for no longer than is necessary, for the purpose that it was retained. However, when deciding how long to retain personal data employers should be guided by employment legislation.

So how long should I retain employee data?

Written Terms of Employment – 1 year

Employers must retain a copy of this statement throughout the employee’s employment and for one year after termination at a minimum.

Payroll details and Payslips – 6 years

Records, calculations and documents relating to the value of benefits for employees must be kept for 6 years in the event of an audit by Revenue. The WRC may also inspect these in an audit and seek evidence that employees are supplied with payslips.

Hours of Work – 3 years

Details of days and hours worked each week, annual leave and public holidays taken and payment received for same. Rest break records and/or records of notification of employees being fully informed about rest break entitlement and procedures if rest break is unable to be taken.

Maternity and Adoptive Leave Records – none

While there is no set period of the retention of data on maternity leave or adoptive leave records, claims can be made within 6 months of employers being informed of an issue giving rise to a dispute or extended to 12 months in exceptional circumstances.

Parental Leave – 8 years

Records of Parental Leave, including the period of employment of each employee and the dates and times of the leave taken, must be retained for 8 years.

A more detailed list of Employee Record Keeping Requirements can be viewed here.

Where legislation gives no guidance on record keeping requirements, employers should carefully predetermine, and include in any employee privacy notice, how long and the grounds they will use for retaining that data. For example; an employer may decide to retain all performance review records for the entire duration of an employee’s employment to monitor employee performance.

Whatever the reasoning behind retaining employee data – whether it be legal or other business reasons, employers need to ensure they have a clear policy outlining their reasoning, that this is easily accessible to employees and that the policy is consistently applied.

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

Posted in Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Records, Employment Tribunals, GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation, Parental Leave, Workplace Relations Commission, WRC

23
Jan 18

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Is it discrimination to top up maternity pay but not paternity pay?

September 2016 saw the introduction of Paternity Leave, that for the first time ever allowed fathers/partners to take two weeks paid leave on the birth of a child / placement of a child for adoption. Paternity Leave is paid at the same rate as Maternity Pay, currently €235 per week*, leaving it up to employers to decide whether or not they wish to top-up pay during the two weeks leave. The question then arose that if by topping up maternity leave, would an employer by default have to top up paternity pay?

A recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) case involving a transport company, provides useful guidance on the answer to this question.

In this case a male employee brought a case under the Employment Equality Act claiming discrimination on the grounds of gender due to the fact that the employer topped up maternity pay but did not top up paternity pay.

However the WRC Adjudicator held in favour of the Company, stating that maternity leave is different to paternity leave and that “the special protection afforded to women in connection with pregnancy and maternity is embedded in European and Irish law”. The Adjudicator concluded that the employer was entitled to make special provisions for women at the time of maternity leave and was protected in that regard by the Employment Equality Acts.

Conclusion

This case gives the green light to employers who wish to offer a maternity top up but not offer the same for paternity leave. Whatever it is you decide on, employers are advised to have clear paternity and maternity leave policies in place that is accessible to all employees.

*The rate of maternity/paternity pay will increase to €240 per week from end of March 2018.

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, Discrimination, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Tribunals, Workplace Relations Commission, WRC

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

17
Nov 17

Posted by
Lauren Conway

€7,500 awarded for unfair interview questions

The Workplace Relations Commission has awarded €7,500 to a woman they found was discriminated against during a job interview with Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research John Halligan. Mr. Halligan, during the course of the interview, said to the woman “I shouldn’t be asking you this, but....are you a married woman? Do you have children? How old are your children?”

Mr. Halligan said that the questions were asked in good faith as he wanted to make her aware that flexible working hours to allow his staff to take care of their families is something that he encourages. The WRC however, found that the questions were discriminatory under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2005.

The legislation defines discrimination as treating one person in a less favourable way than another based on any of the following 9 grounds:

  • Gender
  • Civil Status
  • Family Status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Membership of the Traveller community

When conducting an interview it is important for employers to build rapport with the candidate but they also need aware that asking questions or making comments in relation to the above 9 grounds will leave you at risk of a hefty discriminatory claim, even if you think you are just making small talk.

So what questions are appropriate and inappropriate to ask in a job interview?

Appropriate Interview Questions

  • Are you able to perform the specific duties of this position?
  • What days can you work? What hours can you work?
  • Are you available to work overtime on occasion?
  • Are you available to travel on occasion?
  • Are you able to start work at 8 am?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • Do you have any responsibilities that would interfere with traveling for us?

Inappropriate Interview Questions

  • Do you have or plan to have children?
  • If you get pregnant, will you continue to work, and will you come back after maternity leave?
  • What are your child care arrangements?
  • Are you married /engage?
  • How many children do you have? Do you have a babysitter available if we need you on a weekend? Do the working hours fit with your childcare?
  • Do you have a baby or small child at home?

Employment and equality legislation doesn’t just start once you hire someone, it’s applicable the moment you post a job advert. With this in mind employers need to be mindful of what they say even when making small talk and building rapport with candidates before and after the job interview. 

To view our full Interviewing Guidelines click here

Also see our blog ‘Be careful of discrimination in job interviews’ here

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

Posted in Discrimination, Employment Update, Workplace Relations Commission, WRC

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