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Blog  »  April 2014
Apr 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Absence Management

Managing employee absences is an on-going challenge for managers right across the country, from SMEs to multi-nationals.

According to research by the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) 11 million days are lost each year in Ireland due to employee absences, at a cost of €1.5 billion per year to the economy.

One of the most effective ways of managing employee absences and helping to prevent reoccurring instances is to conduct Return to Work Interviews with employees. Return to work interviews are one-to-one meetings between an employee and their manager to discuss the employee’s absence.

To assist managers conduct these meetings, which can sometimes be quite sensitive, we’ve put together a short guide and template form to the help managers structure the meeting. This new material can be found under the Support section of our website.

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Posted in Company handbook, Sick Leave/Absence Management

Apr 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Dunnes Stores ordered to pay €8,000 to employee

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) recently heard that a Galway branch of Dunnes Stores installed CCTV cameras to spy on employees they believed to be eating unpaid for chips, chicken goujons, and other food during their shifts. The cameras were installed without the employees being notified. Following their “investigation” Dunnes dismissed up to nine employees for eating unpaid-for food.

The EAT ruled that Dunnes Stores’ investigation “fell short of acceptable practice” and criticised the retailer for spying on employees. Whilst the tribunal recognised that the individual in question, in this case, had contributed to her own dismissal, they ruled that the dismissal was unfair and awarded her €8,000.

Lesson Learnt

This case illustrates the care that must be taken when using CCTV in the workplace. Use of CCTV is heavily regulated by Data Protection legislation. If employers do intend to use CCTV cameras, they must notify employees that cameras are in place and never use hidden cameras.

Secondly, this case highlights the need to follow correct procedures when taking disciplinary action against an employee. Whilst this employee was in breach of the company’s policies, the company’s lack of adherence to appropriate practice resulted in a costly fine. Disciplinary policies and procedures should be adhered to.

For further information on employee theft see our blog “What to do if you Suspect an Employee of Stealing”.

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Posted in Company handbook, Employment Tribunals, Staff Handbook

Apr 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Worst excuses for not paying the minimum wage!

This year is marks the 15th anniversary of National Minimum Wage in the UK. To coincide with the anniversary, HMRC have released a list of some of the most unusual excuses given by employers about why they don’t pay their employees the legal wage. Reasons include:

• “I don’t think my workers know anything about the NMW because they don’t speak English.”
• “When the NMW goes up I do increase the amount I pay a little, even if the total pay is still below the NMW. I don’t think it’s right to ignore the rises in NMW.”
• “It wasn’t a conscious decision to say ‘I’m not going to pay this’, but I’ve never really considered doing it because I’ve not had people come to me and say, ‘I’m not getting paid enough’, or ‘Is this the minimum wage?’”
• An employee ran out of the premises when HMRC officers arrived to check for NMQ infringements. The same employee then returned, minus the work pinafore, pretending to be a customer.
• One employee claimed to be a friend of the owner and only in the restaurant as they were in the area. HMRC offices returned on a different day to find the person in the kitchen preparing food.

NERA have responsibility for carrying out workplace inspections and investigating possible infringements in Irish workplaces. Whilst the above excuses are from British employers, Irish employers are not all innocent either. For the period January 2013 to June 2013 €420,941 in unpaid wages was recovered from Irish employers, for the same period in 2012 €426,818 was recovered.

Minimum wage in Ireland for experienced adults is €8.65. An experienced adult is any individual over 18 with 2 years work experience of any kind.

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Posted in Employment Contract, Wages

Apr 14

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Using interns? Are you fully compliant?

Internships are an excellent opportunity for inexperienced individuals to gain valuable experience to kick start their career. They also offer many benefits to employers, helping them identify future talent.

However, employers who offer internships need to be sure they have the correct procedures in place and are operating with the law. In the UK, companies who are exploiting interns are being specifically targeted by the Government. The UK has seen many examples of interns being exploited, the saddest of which was in September 2013 when a 21 year old London intern collapsed and tragically died, apparently from exhaustion after working 72 hours without a break.

Thankfully we haven’t seen such extremes in Ireland, but employers need to be vigilant.

Do interns have any employment rights?

Yes, interns do have certain employment rights. These rights include the right to:

• Annual leave & public holidays
• Appropriate breaks and rest periods
• Protection from bullying and harassment
• Fair procedures
• Data Protection

Polices on the above, as well as Health and Safety policies, should be an integral part of any interns induction.

Should Interns be paid?

In some cases, yes an intern may be entitled to be paid. Whether or not an intern is entitled to minimum wage will depend on the facts of their individual situation, their relationship with the organisation and what actual happens in practice.

Under the Minimum Wage Act 2000, if an individual is carrying out work of value to an employer, has a similar level of supervision and responsibility as the rest of the workforce, they are likely to be entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage, regardless of whether they have the title of Intern or not. There is currently little case law on this, however the Act is broad so it could easily be the case that basic tasks of interns may fall under the Act.

Government Intern schemes such as JobBridge or various FAS schemes are exempt from some employment legislation, however private schemes will not be exempt.

What proactive steps can be taken?

If an employer is satisfied that an individual will be an intern, details of the agreement should be put in writing, clearly outlining the learning objective, training/support provided and schedule for feedback.Internships should generally be kept relatively short. The longer the internship the greater the possibility that the intern will be carrying out work, and acquiring employment status. 

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Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employment Contract