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Blog  »  January 2022
31
Jan 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Update: Steps to Reduce the Spread of Covid-19 in the Workplace

On the 21st of January the Government announced the easing of restrictive measures. The Transitional Protocol: Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 reflects the lessons that we have learned over the past two years. This guidance is a general document applicable to all sectors. All businesses and sectors who have specific guidance should review and update their own guidance in line with the advice contained in the document.

While the public health advice has changed, employers need to remember that several steps still need to be implemented by employers and employees to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

1. Keep a COVID-19 Response Plan in Place

Employers and their representatives should continue to maintain or take the following steps:
• Update their COVID-19 Response Plan according to the most recent public health advice.
• facilitate the ongoing appointment and engagement of the Lead Worker Representative
• Review and update their occupational health and safety (OSH) risk assessments and safety statement as workers return to the physical workplaces and as changes to the workplaces take place.
• Maintain measures to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace
• Maintain any specific measures or response for dealing with an outbreak of Covid-19

2. Maintain policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of workers who may have symptoms of COVID-19

How you manage and isolate potential infectious individuals remains a crucial step in protecting the worker involved, their colleagues and others at the workplace. While the need to maintain a contact log with details of workers and visitors to a workplace has been removed, employers may need to provide attendance information as appropriate in the event the local Department of Public Health has to investigate an outbreak.

Employers should continue to:

• Advise that workers do not come to work if they are displaying signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have had a positive test,
• Provide instructions for workers to follow if they develop signs and symptoms of COVID-19 during work,
• Display information on signs and symptoms of COVID-19

Workers should also continue to:

• Keep themselves up to date with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19,
• Do not attend work if they are displaying signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or have symptoms
• Follow public health advise regarding self-isolation, restricting movement, testing and what to do if identified as a close contact
• Report to managers immediately if any symptoms develop during work
• Comply with any public health personnel and their employer for contract tracing purposes and follow any public health advise given in the event of a case or outbreak in their workplace.

3. Maintaining COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Measures

Hand Hygiene

Employers should continue to:
• ensure that appropriate hygiene facilities and materials are in place to accommodate
workers adhering to hand hygiene measures,
• make available advice on how to perform hand hygiene effectively,
• display posters on how to wash hands in appropriate locations throughout the
workplace,
• provide hand sanitisers (alcohol or non-alcohol based) where washing facilities cannot
be accessed. In choosing an alcohol-based sanitiser, a minimum of 60% alcohol is
required.
• provide facilities for frequent hand hygiene for outdoor work, which should be located
close to where workers are working. Outdoor toilet facilities, if reasonably practicable,
should also be considered.

Workers should continue to:
• Follow hand hygiene guidance and advise
• Wash their hands with soap and water or with hand sanitiser for at least 20 seconds.

Respiratory Hygiene

Employers should continue to:

• provide tissues as well as bins/bags for their disposal,
• empty bins at regular intervals, and
• provide advice on good respiratory practice including the safe use, storage and
disposal of face masks/coverings and the safe cleaning of face coverings.

Workers should continue to:

• adopt good respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, and
• follow good practice on the safe use, storage, disposal, and cleaning of face
masks/coverings. 

Physical Distancing

Employers may choose to maintain some of the practices that were in place based on the Work Safely Protocol for the period of transition back to office work. Especially in meetings, events, or training with a continued focus on hand and respiratory etiquette and adequate ventilation are all measures that may continue. 
There is a legal requirement to wear a facemask in specific settings (e.g., healthcare, public transport, taxis, public offices, retail premises etc.) Outside of these settings it is still good practice to continue to use face masks particularly in crowded areas. Employers should continue to support and facilitate the use of face masks b workers who wish to continue wearing them.

Bright Contracts will be updating it's COVID-19 response plan as soon a possible with the updated transitional protocol providing further guidance in relation to office working. Once updated this will be communicated across social media so keep your eyes peeled.

 

Read more at www.gov.ie >

Posted in Coronavirus, Health & Safety, Staff Handbook

31
Jan 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

What you Need to Know About Irelands New Public Holiday

What is it and when will it happen?


The Government announced last week that there will be a once off extra public holiday on Friday the 18th of March 2022. It was introduced to recognise the efforts made by the general public, volunteers and all workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. This will result in a four-day weekend in the middle of March as St Patricks Day is also a public holiday.


Next Year, 2023, there will be a permanent public holiday introduced to establish the celebration of St Brigid’s Day. This will occur on the first Monday in February. If St Brigid’s Day falls on the first day of February, that happens to be a Friday, that Friday the 1st of February will be a Public Holiday.

This new public holiday will bring the number of public holidays in Ireland to 10, which is one of the lowest in Europe, compared to Austria and Sweden which have 13.


What does this mean for employers?

This announcement can bring cost implications for employers. Employees are entitled to a paid day off. If the employee is working that day, they are entitled to double pay or an additional day of paid leave.

 

Related Articles:

 Public Holidays: What Employers Need to Know

The WHO?WHAT?WHERE? and WHY? Of The WRC

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Employment Law, Pay/Wage, Wages

28
Jan 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Public Holidays: What Employers Need to Know

What is a public holiday?

A public holiday is nationally recognised day when most businesses and other institutions are closed. They usually occur on a special day or event. For example, St Patricks Day and Christmas Day.
In 2022 we were introduced to a new once off public holiday that will take place on Friday, 18th of March. From 2023 there will be a new annual public holiday in February to celebrate St Brigid’s Day, it will happen on the first Monday in February.

When are the public holidays?

• New Year’s Day
• First Monday in February, or 1st of February if the date falls on a Friday (2023 onwards)
• Saint Patrick’s Day
• Once off public holiday (18th March 2022 only)
• Easter Monday
• First Monday in May
• First Monday in June
• First Monday in August
• Last Monday in October
• Christmas Day
• St Stephens Day

What are employees entitled to?

Most employees are entitled to a day paid leave on public holidays. There is an exception for certain part-time employees.


If you qualify for public holiday benefit, you are entitled to:
• A paid day off on the public holiday
• An additional day of annual leave
• An additional day’s pay
• A paid day off within a month of the public holiday

Part time employees are entitled to a day’s pay for the public holiday if they meet the following requirements:
• You have worked for your employer at least 40 hours in the 5 weeks before the public holiday
• The public holiday falls on the day you normally work

If you are required to work on the day the public holiday falls you are entitled to an additional day’s pay. If you do not work on the day, you should get one fifth of your weekly pay.

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Posted in Company Handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Handbook, Pay/Wage, Staff Handbook, Wages

25
Jan 22

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Nation Rejoices: The Removal of COVID-19 Restrictions & The Return to the Workplace

Ireland rejoiced as it was announced over the weekend that most of the public health measures currently in place can be removed giving the Irish a sense of normalcy again, something we have all been waiting a long time for. However, this news will have also been met with many questions by the business community, particularly around how to effectively manage a safe, gradual return to the workplace.

The government confirmed that the transition to office working could commence with immediate effect from yesterday, Monday the 24th of January which is amazing news for all but it is strongly encouraged that employers engage with employees to plan, prepare and engage with their staff to put into motion that return in the coming weeks.

The return of employees to the office is very much a measured response, taking into account business needs as well as the needs of the employee. The experiment of working from home has been a success over the past two years therefore the we see it that there must be very justified reasons for a business to require staff to work in the office five days of the week. 

The return to office working must be considered in line with obligations under existing Safety, Health and Welfare legislation to provide a safe place of work. Organisations COVID-19 response plans will naturally need be edited to take into account these new measures and it is hoped that the revised guidance document will be finalised and published in the coming days. Once published our Bright Contracts software will be updated to reflect these changes.

While the lifting of restrictions is great news for all it is still important to bear in mind that the government still continue to reiterate the need for ongoing close monitoring of the virus. The pandemic is not over and the emergence of new variants with increased levels of transmissibility remains a risk both nationally and globally so businesses are encouraged to still keep this at the forefront of their office plans.

While the restrictions have been lifted, it is advised that employers develop plans for their return to work and continue the use of Covid-19 control measures:

  • Employers should re-examine the potential risks and hazards and update business and safety plans. (e.g. Covid-19 Response Plan, the occupational health and safety through risk assessments and the safety statement). 
  • The Health and Safety Authority’s website contains resources for employers including the Pre-return to work form, and Employer checklists.
  • Implement control measures and comply with the HSE’s and Government’s protocol/guidance. This includes appointing at least one lead worker representative to ensure safety measures are in place and being adhered to. Access a Health Safety Authority online course on the role of lead worker representative.
  • Develop, consult on, communicate and implement workplace changes or policies. 
  • Continue to follow the current advice for those with symptoms, cases and close contacts as announced by the government on the 12th of January 2022.
  • Continue to focus on maximising the uptake of the primary and booster vaccination.

Further changes coming down the line for businesses is this year, Leo Varadkar will bring in five new workers’ rights, which will include the right to request remote working. The others will be the right to statutory sick pay, new rights around redundancy for people who are laid off during the pandemic, a new right on the protection of workers’ tips and the new public holiday on St Brigid’s Day which was announced last week. These will be in addition to the previously introduced Right to Disconnect.

Today, Leo Varadkar provided some guidance into the specifics of The Right to Request Remote Working which we have summarised below for you:

  • The employee must have at least 6 months service in order to submit a request.
  • The employer will have 12 weeks to reply to the employees request.
  • The employer can counter offer the employees request which the employee will have one month to accept or refuse.
  • Right of appeal will apply to this strategy which will either be dealt with internally or through The WRC.
  • Employees can submit another request after 12 weeks.
  • A requirement of this strategy will be that all employers MUST have a Work From Home (WFH) Policy in place

Bright Contracts already has a WFH policy in the handbook of the software which can be found under the 'Terms & Conditions' tab. Further guidance in relation to The Right To Request Home Working is expected over the coming months which we will then communicate to our customers.

Related Articles:

Q&A: The Vaccine & The Workplace

The 411 on The Right to Request Remote Working

Helpful Articles/ Documents:

- Role of a Lead Worker Representative

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

18
Jan 22

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Get Informed About Wage Deductions

There can often be debates between the employer and the employee as to what can be legally deducted from an employee’s wages. Well the confusion is over because in this blog post we have detailed for you what are the legal deductions employers can make, including the special restrictions on employers in relation to any act or omission of the employee. Firstly, under the Payment of Wages Act 1991, the employee has a right to:

1. A negotiable mode of wage payment
2. A written statement of wages and deductions, i.e. a payslip
3. Protection from unlawful deductions from wages

The Act applies to employees engaged under a contract of employment or apprenticeship, employed through an employment agency or through a subcontractor or working for the State.
There are only 3 circumstances in which an employer may legally make deductions from an employee’s wages or receive any payments from an employee. These are:

1. If the deduction or payment is required or authorised by law, for example, income tax, PRSI, USC, local property tax (LPT), additional superannuation contribution (ASC), an attachment of earnings order (AEO) or a notice of attachment.

2. If the deduction or payment is provided for in the contract of employment, for example, employee pension contributions, deductions for uniforms etc.

3. If the deduction is agreed to in writing, in advance, by the employee, for example, medical insurance subscriptions, trade union dues.

There are however special restrictions placed on employers in relation to deductions or the receipt of payments from wages, which arise from any act or omission of the employee (e.g. till shortages, bad workmanship, breakages), or are in respect of the supply to the employee by the employer of goods or services which are necessary to the employment (e.g. the provision or cleaning of uniforms). Any deduction or payment from wages of the kinds described must satisfy the following conditions:

i. the deduction or payment must be provided for in the contract of employment
ii. the amount of the deduction, or payment, must be fair and reasonable having regard to all the circumstances including the amount of the wages of the employee .e. if it is substantial it should not be taken out of one single wage payment.
iii. Prior to the act or omission occurring, the employee must have previously been given written details of the terms of the contract of employment, governing deductions or payments, by the employer.

Written notice must be given to the employee in the case of each deduction or payment to the employer at least one week prior to the deduction being made and the employer must provide a receipt. The deduction cannot take place more than six months after the employee’s act or omission becomes known to the employer or after the provision of good and services to the employee. However, where a series of deductions are to be made, the first deduction must be made within six months. Most importantly, the deduction or payment cannot be more than the cost to the employer, in other words, the employer should not profit from the deductions.

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Posted in Employment Contract, Employment Law, Pay/Wage, Wages

7
Jan 22

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The WHO?WHAT?WHERE? and WHY? Of The WRC

The Workplace Relations Commission, or as they are more commonly referred to, the WRC, are a body which companies discuss in hushed tones as we associate them with discrimination cases but do we all know exactly WHO they are and WHAT they do besides being the deciding body on employment law cases? I don’t think many of us are sure, which is why our blog post will dive into the WHO?WHAT?WHERE? and WHY? Of The WRC.

Established on the 1st of October 2015, The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is an independent, statutory body which is Irish government-operated, which decides cases of alleged discrimination under Irish equality legislation. It was established under the Workplace Relations Act 2015 which reforms the State’s employment rights and industrial relations structures to deliver a better service for employers and employees.

Previously there were 5 separate bodies which dealt with complaints and disputes relating to industrial relations, employment law and employment equality but under the new system there are now 2 statutory bodies, namely The Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. The Commission has a board consisting of a chairperson and 8 ordinary members appointed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The WRC provides information on employment law, equality and industrial relations to employees, employers and representative bodies of employees and employers. The function of the WRC is to provide advisory and conciliation services. Upon request, the Advisory Service engages with employers, employees and their representatives to help them to develop effective industrial relations practices, procedures and structures. This assistance could include reviewing or developing effective workplace procedures in areas such as grievance, discipline, communications and consultation.

Conciliation is a voluntary process where the parties to a dispute agree to avail of a neutral and impartial third party who will assist them in resolving their industrial relations differences. How the WRC assists in this situation is they will provide an Industrial Relations Officer to chair negotiations with the view of steering the discussions and exploring possible solutions in a non-prejudicial fashion. Solutions are reached only by consensus, hence the outcome is voluntary.

WRC inspectors visit workplaces and carry out inspections of employer’s records to ensure compliance with employment and equality legislation. An inspection may arise as a result of a complaint being received of alleged non-compliance, a campaign focussing on a specific sector or a particular piece of legislation, or it may simply be a routine inspection. Where breaches of legislation have been found, the inspector may, depending on the legislation involved, issue either a compliance notice or a fixed payment notice to the employer.

The WRC also has responsibility for:

• promoting the improvement of workplace relations, and maintenance of good workplace relations,
• promoting and encouraging compliance with relevant enactments,
• providing guidance in relation to compliance with codes of practice approved under Section 20 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015,
• conducting reviews of, and monitor developments as respects, workplace relations,

• conducting or commissioning research into matters pertaining to workplace relations,
• providing advice, information and the findings of research conducted by the Commission to joint labour committees and joint industrial councils,
• advising and apprising the Minister in relation to the application of, and compliance with, relevant enactments, and
• providing information to members of the public in relation to employment

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Posted in Discrimination, Dismissals, Employment Law, Workplace Relations Commission, WRC