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Blog  »  April 2016
Apr 16

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

Irish Workplace Fatalities above EU Average

The past 2 months have seen the deaths of at least 5 people due to accidents in the workplace. Ireland is slightly above the EU average in terms of the number of fatal accidents at work in a year, according to European Union's statistics agency, Eurostat. The statistics show that the rate of workplace deaths in Ireland was just over four per 100,000 people employed in 2012. The family farm was the most dangerous workplace, with fatalities in the agricultural sector accounting for 30 deaths in 2014, compared to 16 the previous year, an increase of 87pc.

The question therefore is: what can be done to ensure safety compliance? The Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Acts 2005 and 2010 set out health and safety responsibilities for both employers and employees. 

Employers' duties

The employer has a duty to ensure the employees’ safety, health and welfare at work as far as is reasonably practicable. In order to prevent workplace injuries and ill health the employer is required, among other things, to:

  • Provide and maintain a safe workplace which uses safe plant and equipment
  • Prevent risks from use of any article or substance and from exposure to physical agents, noise and vibration
  • Prevent any improper conduct or behavior likely to put the safety, health and welfare of employees at risk
  • Provide instruction and training to employees on health and safety • Provide protective clothing and equipment to employees
  • Appointing a competent person as the organisation’s Safety Officer

Employees’ duties

The duties of employees while at work include:

  • To take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of themselves and of other people in the workplace
  • Not to engage in improper behavior that will endanger themselves or others
  • Not to be under the influence of drink or drugs in the workplace
  • To undergo any reasonable medical or other assessment if requested to do so by the employer
  • To report any defects in the place of work or equipment which might be a danger to health and safety

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Apr 16

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

Social Media (Part 4) - Cases

Over the past number of weeks we have posted a series of blogs on social media and the impact of certain areas for employers and the workplace. We’ll turn now to social media related cases that are coming through the courts and consider the decisions passed down

Fairness of Dismissal depends on circumstances:

  • Case One = Unfair Dismissal

An employee was dismissed for posting insulting comments on Facebook regarding colleagues. The dismissal was held to be unfair on the basis that the comments were relatively minor, were made outside working hours and did not name colleagues specifically. Although a UK case it is a good indication of the thought process likely to be followed in Ireland. Whitham -v- Club 24 t/a Ventura

  • Case Two = Fair Dismissal

In this case the employee had posted derogatory comments on Facebook regarding her employer. A key factor in the Irish EAT's decision that this was a fair dismissal was the fact that the employer was specifically named in the posts. O'Mahoney -v- PJF Insurances

The Importance of Robust Social Media Policies

In this case the employee was held to have been fairly dismissed for posting derogatory comments regarding customers on Facebook. The staff handbook expressly stated that acts committed outside work that bring the employer into disrepute would constitute misconduct and that the company reserved the right to take disciplinary action. Preece -v- Wetherspoons

The Importance of Consistently Applying a Social Media Policy

The employee was dismissed for forwarding pornographic material. He maintained he was only forwarding material passed onto him by others in the company, who had not been dismissed and he only engaged in this activity to disguise his homosexuality. Through the EAT he won reinstatement. The respondent appealed the decision, firstly through the Circuit Court and then in the High Court. The High Court upheld the decision and awarded compensation of arrears of wages, for a variety of reasons, one being the fact the employer was aware that sending inappropriate emails was a rising trend but had not implemented a detailed social media policy. It concluded that the bank ought to have notified all employees of the issue with sending such emails and the likely sanctions that could follow, up to and including dismissal, particularly if a zero tolerance policy was to apply. Reilly -v- Bank of Ireland

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Posted in Employee Handbook, Social Media