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26
Nov 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Look What's Coming: Statutory Sick Pay for 2022

With 2021 drawing to a close businesses must now look forward as to what is to come in 2022 and one change that is likely yo come in 2022 which will affect all employers is the introduction of  a compulsory sick pay scheme.

Unlike many European jurisdictions, Ireland has never had a scheme like this. Currently an Irish employer is not, at the moment, obliged to pay employees while they are sick which is about to change due to the Sick Leave Bill 2021 which was published recently and provides for a comprehensive Statutory Sick Pay scheme (SSP).

The key points for employers to note in relation to this scheme are as follows:

1. While the number of eligible days per year will start at a low level, the Government intends that this will increase to two working weeks by the year 2025.

2. SSP will be capped and an employer will only be obliged to pay up to 70% of wages, subject to a cap of €110/day. 

3. The Government will not “top up” the employer’s contribution to 100%.

4. Employees will have to have at least 13 weeks of continuous service in order to be eligible.

5. Employees will be obliged to provide a medical certificate in respect of each day of Statutory Sick Leave.

6. If an employer maintains it cannot afford to discharge its SSP obligations, an exemption can be granted by the Labour Court.

7. If an employer already provides more favourable sick leave benefits to an employee, they will not be obliged to comply with the SSP rules.

So what should employers do now? It would be prudent for employers , especially smaller employers, to start financial planning now in order to ensure that they are ready for when the SSP is introduced. Employers should also review any existing sick pay schemes/ policies to check whether the new rules will affect/ change these.

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Posted in Contract of employment, Employment Update, Sick Leave/Absence Management

17
Nov 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 & 2005

The Adoptive Leave Act 1995 and 2005 covers all adopting mothers or sole male adopters who are in employment. The Act also covers employed adopting fathers in the event of the adopting mother’s death occurring following the adoption during the period of adoptive or additional adoptive leave. Under this act an employee is entitled to a minimum of 24 consecutive weeks’ adoptive leave and an optional 16 weeks’ additional adoptive leave.

An adoptive parent must give their employer at least 4 weeks written notice of the expected date of placement of the child, and confirm this as soon as possible. A certificate of placement (available from the Adoption Authority of Ireland or HSE) must be given to the employer no later than 4 weeks after the date of placement.

Adopting parents are entitled to time off during working hours without loss of pay to attend preparation classes and pre-adoption meetings with social workers/ health board officials required during the pre-adoption process.

There is no set period of the retention of adoptive leave records, however 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 which employers must be aware of.

Bright Contracts' handbook includes each family related leave policy including adoptive leave under the 'Leave & Benefits' section of the handbook. If you'd like to download a trial of our software to preview these sections click here.

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Parent's Leave & Benefit Act 2019

Don't Forget About Fathers: Paternity Leave & Benefit Act 2016

Posted in Family Leave

10
Nov 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Don't Get Caught Out: The 5 Core Terms

Throughout the pandemic some businesses were lucky enough to be able to hire new employees which is why it is important for employers to know their legal obligations in the first few days of an employees employment. The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994 to 2014 clarifes at the outset what the terms of employment are, in order to avoid problems which may arise at a later date.

Under the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994 to 2014:

  • The employer must give an employee a written statement contains the five core terms of employment within 5 days of commencing employment.
  • The employer  must give an employee a full written statement of their terms of employment within 2 months of starting employment.
  • The employer must notify the employee of any changes in the particulars of the statement within 1 month of the change taking effect.

Written Statement of Terms of Employment

The purpose of the written statement of terms of employment is to clarify the terms of a person's employment and to avoid uncertainty or misunderstandings, which can often lead to a dispute at a later date e.g. rates of pay for overtime hours not specified in advance.

It is important to note that a written statement of terms of employment is not necessarily the same as a contract of employment, although the two often overlap.An employer is obliged to issue a written statement of terms of employment to the employee which must be signed and dated by the employer however there is no requirement for an employee to sign a written statement of terms of employment.

The 5 core terms of employment which an employer must provide to an employee in writing within 5 days of commencement of employment are as follows:

1. Full names of the employer and the employee

2. Address of the registered office of the employer/ in the state/ the principal place of the relevant business

3. If it is a temporary contract, the expected duration of that temporary contract should be stated and if it is a fixed term contract, the date when that contract expires should be stated.

4. The rate or method of calculation of the employee's pay and the pay reference period for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Acts 2000 and 2015.

5. The number pf hours which the employer reasonably expects the employee to work per normal working dat and per normal working week.

To avoid issuing two versions of a written statement of terms of employment (one version with the 5 core terms and the second version with the remaining terms0 it would be prudent for an employer to issue one version containing all terms within 5 days, or indeed before the employment commences so the employee is fully aware of the terms prior to commencement.

Additional Terms to Include in the Written Statement

The whole purpose of the written statement is to make absolutely clear to an employee what the terms of their employment are. An employer could add additional terms to avoid any confusion or uncertainty that might arise at a later date. Issues which may arise might include:

    • Appearance/ Dress Code - Formal or Casual
    • Compassionate Leave - Whether paid leave is granted for the death of a family member
    • Confidentiality Clause 
    • Alcohol & Drugs Misuse Policy
    • Study Leave
    • Lay-Off & Short Time
    • Data Protection Policy
    • Business Travel Arrangements
    • Health & Safety

This is not an exhaustive list. Where additional clauses or policies are included, the employer should also specify what disciplinary action will be taken against an employee who breaches any of these clauses.

The written statement must be given tot he employee even if the employee's employment ends before the end of the period in which the statement is required to be given. Where the employee leaves within 5 days of commencement, they should still be issued with a written statement containing the 5 core terms. Where an employee leaves within 2 months of commencement, the employer must still give the ex-employee a written statement, provided the employee has been in the continuous service fo the employer for at least one month.

The Act also specifies that an employer is required to retain the written statement for the duration of the employee's employment and for at least 1 year after the employment has ceased. The Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 states that an employer is required to retain a copy of the written statement for 2 years from the date on which the statement was issued for inspection by a social welfare inspector. The employer should ensure that a copy of the written statement is held for the longer of these durations. 

Bright Contracts' contracts within the software not only cover the 5 core terms but also the additional terms. You can view a demo of the software and its contracts here. You can download a trial of the software here.

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Posted in Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employment Contract, Employment Law

3
Nov 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Parent's Leave & Benefit Act 2019

The Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019 came into effect on the 1st of November 2019. This Act provides for 5 weeks parent’s leave with protection of employment for a relevant parent in respect of a child born or adopted on or after the 1st of November 2019. The purpose of the Act is to enable the relevant parent to provide, or assist in the provision of, care to the child.

This leave can be taken within 24 months, up to a child's second birthday or within two years following adoption. Parents can take 5 weeks together or take separate weeks of leave. Whilst parent’s leave is available to both parents, it is not possible for parents to transfer leave to the other parent, except in the unfortunate circumstances where one of the parents dies. While on parent’s leave an employee will normally be entitled to statutory parent’s leave pay, depending on meeting certain PRSI eligibility criteria. 

Employees wishing to take parent's leave must notify the employer in writing, giving at least 6 weeks’ notice of their intention to take the leave. They should state the expected start date for the leave and how they intend to take the leave – either five weeks together or separate weeks of leave.

Employees may be required to provide a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy and expected date of birth, or a copy of the birth certificate for the child. In the case of adoptions, a certificate confirming eligibility for adoption will be required.

Paid parent’s leave can be taken in addition to existing Maternity Leave, Adoptive Leave, Paternity Leave and Parental Leave rights, as applicable to each "relevant" parent.

Something important to note is that the employer may postpone a request to take parent's leave by up to 12 weeks, in cases where it is felt that by granting the leave request there would be an adverse effect on the business. Before postponing any request, the employer will consult with the employee.

Once a decision has been made to postpone, the employer will provide the employee with written confirmation that the leave is being postponed giving 4 weeks’ notice before the intended commencement date. The confirmation will set out the grounds for the postponement. The employer will only be permitted to postpone the leave on one occasion.

During parent’s leave the employees employment rights are preserved, and annual leave will continue to accrue. The employer reserves the right to refuse time-off to employees where there is non-compliance with this procedure, and any such non-compliance may be dealt with under the Disciplinary Procedure.

Parent's Leave & Maternity Leave

However if any employee requires to take all or any of the 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave, that leave must be taken directly after the paid maternity ends. Again the employee does not have to take the full 16 weeks unpaid, they can move directly to Parents Benefit after paid Maternity ends, they can take any number of weeks of the unpaid maternity leave that they require and after availing of the weeks they require under that entitlement either return to work or move to Parents Benefit.

So how must an employee notify their employer of their intention to take maternity leave?

At least 4 weeks before the commencement of maternity leave stating the date on which the leave is due to commence.

Related Articles:

-  Don't Forget About Fathers: Paternity Leave & Benefit Act 2016

The Employer & Maternity Leave

Posted in Company Handbook, Family Leave

28
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Don't Forget About Fathers: Paternity Leave & Benefit Act 2016

The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 came into effect on the 1st of August 2016 and provides for 2 consecutive weeks paternity leave with protection of employment for a relevant parent in respect of a child born or adopted on or after the 1st of September 2016. The Act also provides that paternity leave may be transferred to the surviving parent on the death of a relevant parent.

The Act covers employees who are relevant parents or a surviving parent from the first day of employment, including those who are working as apprentices, as agency temps, civil servants etc.

Statutory paternity leave consists of 2 consecutive weeks leave to enable a father to provide care, or assist in the provision of care, for the child or provide support to the mother or adopting parent, or both.

Paternity leave can be taken at any time commencing on the date of the birth of the child or placement in the case of adoption, and ending no later than 26 weeks after the date of birth or placement.

Did you Know?

Shockingly, almost half of fathers entitled to paternity benefit do not avail of it and the level of uptake varies dramatically depending on the sector and size of company a person works in. While paid and unpaid leave for new fathers has increased and expanded in recent years, the uptake remains low with less than half (45%) of fathers entitled to paternity benefit did not take it in 2018.

The central statistics office released an employment analysis of maternity and paternity benefits. They haven't updated it past 2019 at present but we still thought the figures presented for 2016 - 2019 were interesting and worth looking at.

In 2019 paternity leave was paid to 3.1 men per 100 employees, which was a slight increase on the 2018 rate of 2.9. However this is still well below the rate of maternity benefit which was paid to 5.3 per 100 employees in 2019.

The sectors with the highest paternity and maternity benefit rate is the Public Administration & Defence. With Accommodation & Food Service having the lowest maternity and paternity benefit rate.

So how long must employers keep records of paternity leave?

The employer is required to keep a record of paternity leave taken by their employees, specifying the period of employment of each employee and the dates and times of paternity leave taken. These records must be maintained for a period of 8 years after the paternity leave has been taken. Failure to keep such records can mean the employer is liable to a Class B fine not exceeding €4,000.

Bright Contracts' handbook includes each family related leave policy including paternity leave under the 'Leave & Benefits' section of the handbook. If you'd like to download a trial of our software to preview these sections click here.

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20
Oct 21

Posted by
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The Employer & Maternity Leave

The main provision of the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 is to provide for 26 weeks' maternity leave with protection of employment for female employees. In addition, an employee is entitled to further leave, known as additional maternity leave, up to a maximum of 16 weeks.

Since the 1st of October 2017, female employees are entitled to extend their maternity leave beyond 26 weeks where the baby is born more than 2 weeks before the expected week of confinement. In the event of a multiple birth, an employee is still only entitled to the 26 weeks maternity leave (or any extended leave due to a premature birth) and 16 weeks additional maternity leave.

The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 also provide for:

- Leave on health & safety grounds if the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts 2005 to 2014 require it.

- Leave of an employed father from his employment, on the death of the mother during her maternity leave.

The Acts cover all female employees (and male employees after the death of the mother following birth) from the first day of their employment and that includes apprentices, agency temps, officers or servants of a local authority and all civil servants.

Since the 1st of October 2017, female employees are entitled to extend their maternity leave beyond 26 weeks where the baby is born more than 2 weeks before the expected week of confinement – the due date to put it more simply. The amount of extended leave will be equivalent to the duration of the premature birth period. The premature birth period means a period which commences on the actual date the child was due to be born and expires 2 weeks before the end of the expected week of birth.

For example: If the baby is born 2 weeks early, then the employee will be entitled to 26 weeks consecutive maternity leave PLUS the extension to her maternity leave by the premature birth period which is 28 weeks.

Some common questions in relation to maternity leave include:

When must an employee commence maternity leave?

An employee is required to take pre-confinement maternity leave of a minimum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 22 weeks before the end of the week in which the baby is due meaning the employee must have a minimum of 4 weeks maternity leave remaining after the birth of the baby.

How must an employee notify their employer of their intention to take maternity leave?
The employee must notify their employer at least 4 weeks before the commencement of maternity leave, which must state the date on which the leave is due to commence AND produce a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy and the expected week of birth.

When does additional maternity leave commence?
It must commence immediately after the 26 weeks maternity leave or any extended leave due to a premature birth except where the mother avails of any transferred paternity leave which must be taken before the commencement of the 16 weeks additional maternity leave.

Does an employee accrue annual leave whilst on maternity leave?
Yes!The employee is treated as being in employment while on maternity leave or additional maternity leave. This means they continue to accrue annual leave. They are also entitled to leave for any public holidays that occur during their maternity leave (including additional maternity leave).

What are an employee's rights on Fixed-Term Contracts?
Women employed under fixed-term contracts may not be entitled to the full period of maternity leave or additional maternity leave if their contract ends while they are still on maternity leave, as their maternity/additional maternity leave will also end on the same day. The expiry of an employee’s contract of employment during maternity leave will not affect her entitlement to Maternity Benefit.

When an employee goes son maternity leave it is vitally important that the employer doesn't fall out of touch with the employee and also to keep them informed about any business news, for example, any changes in management and staff, particularly in their own team.

And lastly don’t assume the employee on maternity leave cannot attend social events. Attending a work social event might provide some very welcome relief and be a good way of catching up (both from the employee’s and the employer’s perspective).

Bright Contracts' handbook includes each family related leave policy including Maternity leave under the 'Leave & Benefits' section of the handbook. If you'd like to download a trial of our software to preview these sections click here.

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14
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Budget 2022: What You Need to Know

The 2022 budget was released this week which aims to explain how money will be raised and spent in 2022. The budget saw some important changes across a variety of sectors with some important ones for employers to know which is why we have summarised them for you below so you don't miss out!

  • The National Minimum Wage

The NMW will rise by 30 cent to €10.50 per hour

  • Family

Maternity benefit and parental leave payments to be increased
Parent's Benefit extended by 2 weeks to 7 weeks from July next year

  • Covid Supports

The employment Wage Subsidy Scheme will remain in place, in a graduated format, until 30 April, 2022 - the scheme will close to new employers from 1 January, 2022

  • Working from Home & Income Tax

People who work remotely will see an income tax deduction of 30% of the cost of vouched expenses for heat, electricity and broadband. In his Budget speech, the Minister for Finance said Government policy is to facilitate and support remote work. 

If you would like to read some more detailed information and analysis, or even read the Ministers’ Budget day speeches to the Dáil, visit http://gov.ie/budget to find out more.

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Posted in Coronavirus, Employment Law, Health & Safety, Hybrid Working, News

11
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Don't Get Caught Out: Maximum Award For The Employee Against Mandatory Retirement

Ensuring you are fully compliant with Irish employment law is a must when looking at ending an employees employment whether it be by termination or retirement. The following case is an example as to how not taking the right steps can lead to a huge cost for the employer.

The Case: Senior Staff Nurse Vs Nursing Home

The Complainant was employed as a senior staff nurse from the 10th May 2014 until the date of her compulsory retirement on the 28th October 2019, by the Respondent, a nursing home in liquidation. She received remuneration of approximately €5,883 per month gross. The Complainant sought an award of compensation in respect of discrimination suffered, loss of almost a year’s work and loss of redundancy payments before the Respondent closed and went into liquidation.

The Complainant was initially provided with a “Relief Panel Fixed Term Contract” requiring her to work ‘as required and when the need arises, varied hours up to 39 hours of a standard 39 hour week’. This included a retirement clause stating ‘Retirement age is 65 years. Employment beyond retirement age is exceptional and only by agreement of the employer.’ There were no further renewals of this contract, and it therefore effectively became a contract of indefinite duration. The Complainant was granted a one-year extension on her compulsory retirement, setting her new retirement date as the 31st of October 2019.

In July 2019, the Complainant entered discussions with Ms. A, who was the Clinical Nurse Manager and the Complainant’s line manager in regards to continuing her employment following the 31st of October 2019. Here, Ms, A. indicated her support for this and told the Complainant to apply for an extension in writing which she did, she did not receive a response. In absence of a response, the Complainant went straight to the Director of Nursing, Mr. B where he informed her that this would not be possible and that they would only have work for her until the end of October 2019. He also informed her verbally that there was a plan to recruit non-EEA national nurses to fill positions with the Respondent. Non-EEA national work visas can only be applied for by employers when no suitable EEA nationals were available to work in the same occupational category. The Complainant asserts that the Respondent did not offer any rationale or objective justification for their decision to terminate her employment.

On 25th October 2019, the Complainant received her final communication from Mr. B confirming that her last working day would be 28th October 2019. Non-EEA nurses were recruited in November 2019 and took over the Complainant’s duties. The Respondent operated for a further eleven months and was then subject to High Court Winding-Up Proceedings on the ground of insolvency. Some staff were redeployed nearby, others received statutory redundancy and approximately €3,000 ex gratia payment which the Complainant had been denied. She had received an excellent reference from Ms. A, which the Complainant asserts proves that she was dismissed based purely on age. The complaint was referred to the WRC on 28th February 2020 where noo evidence was provided in rebuttal of the complaint that the Respondent had acted unlawfully and in breach of the Employment Equality Acts on the ground of age.

Decision: The Adjudicator found that the only basis for the Complainant’s compulsory retirement was her date of birth, and that at the time she was provided with the Fixed Term Contract in 2018 upon her reaching the age of 65, no objective justification was given either verbally or in writing. The Adjudicator was satisfied that there was sufficient work available that the Complainant was fully capable of undertaking. The Respondent was ordered to pay the Complainant €85,000, being 2 years’ remuneration, in compensation for breaches of the Employment Equality Acts. 

The takeaway of this case for employers is they should note that compulsory retirement must have an express valid reasoning and justification behind it, and that it is not exempt from being construed as discrimination on the basis of age.

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Retirement in the Workplace: Is it enforceable?

Posted in Contract of employment, Discrimination, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employment Law

27
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Key Features: Updates to the Work Safely Protocol

Following on from our post The Phased Return to the Workplace , further guidance has been given into the recent government changes effect on the Work Safely Protocol. The Protocol sets out the minimum public health measures required in every place of work to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

While employers are still expected to comply with their normal health and safety obligations, employers should note that from 22 October 2021 the requirement to work from home will be removed and the statutory regime in place to protect public health will be wound down. Further guidance is expected in advance of that date. So what are some of these key changes:

From 20 September 2021:

  • Businesses can begin a phased and staggered return to workplaces for specific business requirements
  • Two metre social distancing, the wearing of masks in certain circumstances, hygiene measures and appropriate ventilation remain in place
  • Appropriate attendance levels should be maintained in accordance with the Protocol
  • Staggered arrangements should be considered, such as non-fulltime attendance and flexible working hours
  • Each workplace must have a Lead Worker Representative that works with the employer to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, and
  • The requirement for self-isolation / restricted movements will continue for those with symptoms, who should immediately seek a test, those with positive test results, and close contacts of confirmed cases, unless fully vaccinated with no symptoms

From 22 October 2021:

  • Depending on continued satisfactory vaccination rates, the Government intends to remove further statutory restrictions from this date. In particular, the requirement to work from home will be removed, allowing a return to physical attendance in workplaces on a phased and cautious basis, appropriate to each sector.
  • Remote working will become a regular feature of Irish working life as the Government continues to implement Making Remote Work, Ireland’s National Remote Work Strategy, and
  • Legal requirements in relation to social distancing and mask wearing will no longer apply in the majority of circumstances. An emphasis on personal responsibility will be encouraged. This means that employees cannot insist on compliance with social distancing, mask wearing or the provision of sanitising equipment or products in the workplace

With employee's returning one of the most important actions for employers to take is to review their risk assessments and health & safety policies. In order to pinpoint how and where could the virus be transmitted in your workplace you must look at the hazards, evaluate the risks and put control measures in place and The Health and Safety Authority has produced checklists to assist in the reopening of workplaces.

In conclusion, the return to the workplace should be conducted in a cautious manner and in consultation with employees. The government is moving towards a focus on personal responsibility from the 22nd of October 2021 and the Government will consult with employers in advance of this date to prepare guidance for the next phase of easing public health restrictions.

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Posted in Coronavirus, Customer Update, Employment Update, Health & Safety, Hybrid Working

21
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Essential Elements of a Hybrid Working Policy

Following on from our previous post 'Your Must Have Hybrid-Working Checklist' having hybrid working policies and agreements in place is essential when returning employees to the office and agreeing a split between working form home and in the office. We see the important elements of a hybrid working policy to be the following:

1. Detail the split between attending work and working remotely

Your hybrid working policy should detail the split between attending work and working remotely and state what number of days an employee will spend attending the workplace and working remotely. The number of days will depend on but is not limited to some of the following;

  • the nature of the employees role 
  • what is happening within their role and team at any particular time 
  • individual circumstances 
  • the needs of the business, including space available at the businesses work locations

2. Working Hours
The working hours the employee must work in the office and at home must be stated, for example: For days on which the employee is attending the office, their normal hours of work are set out in their contract of employment.

Ensure you also detail that while working remotely, they must be available and working during their normal hours of work, as set out in their contract of employment while also listing the break and lunch times and being clear that they must avoid overworking, down time from work is essential.

3. Safe-Working While Working Remotely
Detail the procedure your employees must follow should they have any health & safety concerns while working at home, for example; if any work-related accidents occur in your home.

4. Remote Working Procedures
This section of the policy is where you will detail:

  • Sickness Absence
  • Compliance with Policies
  • Technology & Equipment
  • and a reference to data protection

Bright Contracts have recently updated the software to include a hybrid working policy which can be found under the 'Terms & Conditions' section of the handbook. If you'd like to preview this content prior to consider purchasing a licence you can do so here.

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Posted in Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Employment Contract, Hybrid Working, Software Upgrade, Staff Handbook

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