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4
Jun 20

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Covid-19 mandatory policy now available on Bright Contracts

The Return to Work Safely Protocol (“the Protocol”) sets out essential measures employers must take to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Under “the Protocol”, all employers must put in place a Covid-19 Response Plan. A Response Plan is best thought of as a comprehensive, catch-all document that deals with all points of relevance relating to COVID-19 and the workplace. This will deal with issues such as hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and physical distancing, amongst others.

The Bright Contracts software has now been updated to include a template Covid-19 Response Plan. This document is the perfect starting point for any small employer getting to grips with Covid-19 and preventative workplace measures.

Download Bright Contracts here.

Other Requirements of the Protocol include;

  • Nominating a Worker Representative to help ensure measures are implemented and adhered to.
  • Train all staff on Covid-19 and preventative measure being taken
  • Ask all staff to complete a return to work form

 The full Protocol can be found here.

18
May 20

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Returning staff to work

The Government’s “Return to Work Safely Protocol” sets out a number of measures employers must consider as they reopen their businesses and bring staff back to work safely.

In terms of bringing staff back to work, employers should put in place a number of measures, including:

  1. Employees must be issued with a pre-return to work form to be completed at least 3 days prior to their return. In completing the form, employees will self-declare as being fit to return to work. If a worker answers Yes to any of the questions, they are strongly advised to seek medical advise before returning to work. A template questionnaire including all required questions can be downloaded here.

  2. Induction training should be provided for all workers. At a minimum it should include:
    1. up to-date advice and guidance on public health
    2. details on what a worker should do if they develop symptoms of COVID-19
    3. information on how the workplace is organised to address the risk from COVID-19
    4. an outline of the Covid-19 response plan
    5. clarify points of contact from the employer and the workers
    6. any other relevant sector specific advice 

  3. Following a risk assessment, employers should arrange for the necessary controls to be put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.

  4. Temperature testing should be implemented in line with Public Health advice.

  5. Review and revise existing sick leave policies and amend as appropriate and in line with Covid-19 procedures. A revised sick leave policy is now available in Bright Contracts.

The full Return to Work Safely Protocol can be viewed here

31
Mar 20

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Layoff and Short-time Working under Covid-19

Under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2014 a lay-off situation arises if an employer is unable to provide work to an employee for which they are employed to do. A short-time situation arises if an employee's weekly pay or hours is less than 50% of their normal weekly pay or hours due to a reduction in the amount of work to be done for which they are employed to do.

Continuity of Service

Continuity of service is not normally affected by lay-offs. For example, if an employee has been working for an employer for 10 years and is laid off temporarily, their 10 years’ service will remain intact.

Annual Leave

Employees working short-time will continue to accrue leave for the hours they work.

Employees on lay-off will continue to accrue public holidays that occur during the first 13 weeks. They will not accrue annual leave during the period of lay-off.

The annual leave that they accrued up until the point of being laid off will remain intact. Employers should not pay employees in lieu of this annual leave. Rather, it should be made available to the employee to take once they return to work. Given the exceptional circumstances that we are living in, it could well be the case that an employee genuinely cannot take their accrued annual leave this year. If this situation arises employers should try to be flexible in terms of allowing an employee to carry over leave into the next calendar year.

Redundancy

The law on claiming redundancy following a period of lay-off or short-time working had been changed during the Covid-19 emergency period. The emergency period is currently set as 13 March 2020 to 31 May 2020, however this may be extended.

Normally, employees who are laid off or put on short-time hours, you can claim redundancy from their employer after 4 weeks or more, or 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks.

Under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19), employees who have been laid off during the emergency period, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, are not able to claim redundancy.

19
Mar 20

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Putting staff on layoff

As the country tries to get to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic and companies are struggling with temporarily closing their business and laying-off staff, here are some key things you need to know about layoff.

Layoff or redundancy?

As a result of the recent business closures, many employees have been layed-off. Layoff is a temporary measure, whereby the individual is still an employee of the company but they are not receiving any remuneration for the duration of the layoff. Normally, once the situation that led to the layoff is over, the employee will return to their previous role on the same terms and conditions, their length of service will not be impacted by the layoff. In the current situation, it is hoped that many business will be able to re-engage their staff once the current emergency situation eases.

Redundancy on the other hand occurs when the employee loses their job permanently, due to a business closure or a reduction in work levels.

Other Layoff Considerations

  • Employers should give employees notice in writing that they will be put on layoff, although no time period is specified
  • Notice can be given using form RP9
  • Generally, in order to layoff an employee there should be a layoff clause in the contract of employment or it should be custom and practice in the company. It is imagined that flexibility will be shown at this exceptional time, if neither of these exist. However some employers may consider:
    1. including a layoff clause in the agreed terms of employment on a temporary basis,
    2. getting some form of confirmation, signature or email, from the employee to the layoff.

 

 

Posted in Coronavirus

6
Jan 20

Posted by
Nicola Sheridan

Should I pay employee’s who cannot attend work because of bad weather?

Now that the silly season has passed, everyone is facing into a new year – and a potentially severe winter in 2020…. Extreme weather can impact on your employee’s ability to attend work. We experienced this with storms Emma and Ophelia. While an unexpected day off was welcomed by most employees, the issue of getting paid for that day was another matter.

Employers are not obliged to pay employees who cannot attend work because of bad weather. Employees do not have an automatic entitlement to a day’s pay. However, as problems getting to work may be outside your employees’ control, it can be argued that it is unfair not to pay them. This also applies where you as their employer may decide to close your business. Health and safety issues may arise if employees feel pressure to go to work in dangerous conditions under the threat of disciplinary action or by not being paid. Employee relations and productivity may also be affected.

So, should an employer pay an employee who is late or who fails to turn up for work as a result of bad weather?

This normally depends on whether the non-attendance is due to the decision of the employer or the employee. If the employer decides to close their premises, or send employees home because of bad weather, then generally, they should pay their employees. If the workplace is open and work is available but the employee themselves chooses not to come to work, arrives late or leaves early, an employer would have no obligation to pay the employee for their absence.

It is advised that employers look at this on a case by case basis and adopt a balanced approach. Be flexible – consider alternatives to with-holding pay such as allowing your employees use annual leave for days they are not able to travel to work, allow staff to work up time missed or can your staff temporarily work from home?

You should be careful not to get caught out – have clear policies around issues such as getting to work and managing unexpected leave requests. Communicate these to your staff now. Potential absenteeism issues resulting from extreme weather looks set to continue and as an employer, you will benefit from setting out in advance the ground rules your employees should follow when this occurs.

2
Jan 20

Posted by
Jen McBride

New Year, New HR You!

Start 2020 with some HR goals to put you on the front foot. Make your goals achievable and easy and you won’t be one of the 80% of people whose resolutions have fallen by the wayside by February 1st! Consider how technology could help you achieve a leaner you in 2020.

1. Cut out the fat…

Hate all those repetitive admin tasks that keep popping up over and over like manually recording your employees annual leave, amending employees’ personal details, making sure they are receiving and reading important company updates? Well, now is the time to get rid of them. Consider how an online platform could take care of those tasks and many more.

2. Get out and about more…

Manage your HR tasks from almost anywhere by using your Employer Dashboard to monitor your employees annual leave requests, review your payroll reports and keep an eye on your Revenue payments. As long as you have an internet enabled device, it can all be at your fingertips… anytime, anywhere!

3. Communicate better…

Use online document upload features to distribute, track and manage any information you want your staff to have access to. Contracts, policies, training, schedules, you name it. You have the peace of mind of knowing your employees have that information at their fingertips and that you can see a log of when and how often the are accessing it.

4. Face your fears….

GDPR and cyber security. The two scariest words in the English language. Free yourself from that fear with a robust online portal. Fully secure servers, individually password protected and fully GDPR compliant.

20
Dec 19

Posted by
Laura Murphy

Minimum wage to rise to €10.10 per hour

Minister, Regina Doherty, has announced that from 1 February 2020, the minimum wage will increase from €9.80 per hour to €10.10.

The decision to increase minimum wage by 30 cent follows a recommendation in October by the Low Pay Commission. Strong economic growth and greater certainty surrounding Brexit were two key factors in the decision to introduce the increase.

In order to ensure that the increase in the minimum wage does not result in employers attracting a higher level of PRSI, the employer PRSI threshold will increase from €386 to €395 from 1 February 2020.

Minister Doherty is quoted as saying that; “with this most recent increase in the National Minimum Wage, an employee on minimum wage who works a full 39 hour week will now receive an additional €11.70 per week, or an extra €608.40 gross per year.” It is estimated that over 127,000 workers will benefit from the increase.

Employers should also note that the minimum wage for younger workers will also increase:

  • Aged 19: €9.09
  • Aged 18: €8.08
  • Under 18: €7.07

 

15
Nov 19

Posted by
Nicola Sheridan

Parent's Leave is here

The Government’s newest way of enabling parents spend time with their new baby came into force on 1st November 2019. This is called Parent’s leave.

What you need to know:

  • This leave is currently capped at 2 weeks. The leave must be used before the child turns 1. In cases of multiple births, this leave can only be claimed once.
  • It can be taken as a continuous period of 2 weeks or in 2 separate 1 week blocks. 
  • Parent’s leave must be taken following the end of maternity leave (paid or unpaid) or paternity leave – there cannot be a break between these leave types.
  • Six weeks' notice of the intended use should be given to the employer by the employee.
  • Employers are allowed postpone parent's leave in situations where taking this leave would have an adverse effect on the business. However, it cannot be postponed for more than 12 weeks.
  • Parents receive a statutory payment, currently set at €245 per week (once they have the necessary PRSI contributions).

There is no requirement for employers to pay employees while on parent's leave. It will be up to each employer to decide if they want to top-up this payment. The advice would be to be consistent with approaches taken on the other family leave types.

What employers need to do now:

Company policies should now be reviewed and updated to reflect these changes. This will help you prepare for staff requests for parent’s leave. Should you get an employee request for parent’s leave, make sure you keep your paperwork & record keeping in order.

Bright Contracts has been updated with this policy so you can have peace of mind in knowing you are fully compliant with the new legislation.

 

16
Oct 19

Posted by
Nicola Sheridan

Parent’s Leave & Benefit Bill…. Some paid leave is now on the way for all new parents!

The Government is working on a range of changes to help parents spend more quality time with their children. Last week, they published the new Parent's Leave and Benefit Bill 2019. This Bill is expected to be enacted on or before 1st November 2019.

So what is this….?
The new Parent’s Leave & Benefit Bill introduces the concept of paid parent's leave for employees for the first time in Ireland. Originally called the ‘Parental Leave & Benefit Bill’, this has had a name change to the Parent’s Leave & Benefit bill to clearly differentiate parent's leave from parental leave (which is a separate entitlement!).

What’s included in the new Bill?

  • Parents will be able to take two weeks paid parents leave for any child born / adopted on or after 1st November 2019. The leave must be used before the child’s first birthday. In the case of multiple births, a parent will only be able to claim parents leave once.
  • It is available to both parents and it can be taken as a continuous period of two weeks or in two separate one week blocks.
  • An employee needs to give their employer six weeks' notice of when they want to take the leave, stating the expected start date and the duration.
  • Employers are allowed postpone the parent's leave in situations where taking the leave would have a substantial adverse effect on the operation of the employer's business. Employers however cannot postpone the leave for more than 12 weeks.
  • Parents receive a statutory payment of €245 per week (they need the necessary PRSI contributions to qualify!).

The Bill does not require employers to pay employees while on parent's leave. It will be up to each employer to decide if they want to top-up an employee's parent's benefit and, if so, by how much. The advice would be to be consistent with approaches taken on the other family leave types.

Company policies should be reviewed and updated to reflect the changes being introduced. This will help you prepare for any increase in staff requests. Make sure you keep your paperwork & record keeping in order.

So…. keep a listen for future announcements on this new leave and we will update our Bright Contracts package with this policy once it has all been finalised.

 

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Employee Handbook, Parental Leave

9
Oct 19

Posted by
Nicola Sheridan

To retire or not to retire......that is the question!

The question about whether employers should enforce mandatory retirement ages continues to raise debate. Age discrimination and unfair dismissal are very serious charges an employer can face in terms of how they enforce compulsory retirement ages*. So how can you, as an employer, protect against such a scenario? Simply by getting two key points correct;

  • be able to demonstrate that a compulsory retirement age applies in your company
  • understand the purpose or ‘legitimate aim’ of the retirement age you want to apply.

Before you can enforce a retirement age, you must be clear on what that age is and be confident of the existence of and justification for this - before seeking to rely on it if challenged! This retirement age must be properly referenced in the employment contract and the retirement age policy be communicated clearly to all staff. While different grades or categories of worker can have different compulsory retirement ages, the differences must be clearly explained and any confusion arising from this should be addressed.

Employers should consider the company’s overall business needs and determine the retirement age based on those needs. Reasons which may be considered to “objectively justify” the mandatory retirement of employees includes health and safety of staff, career progression, succession planning and more labour market opportunities.

So, if employers cannot show that their compulsory retirement age policy is appropriate and necessary based on a legitimate objective, this is likely to be considered discriminatory on age grounds. If an employee takes a case against their employer to the WRC over being compulsorily retired, reinstatement to the role can be ordered (which in itself leads to complications for employers!) or where reinstatement is not ordered, significant awards of compensation can be awarded.

An employer's ability to rely on a legitimate aim may be undermined by their actions. Best practice now requires that employers adopt clear policies about retirement - with particular emphasis being placed on the WRC’s Code of Practice on Longer Working. Employers need to start planning for future requirements and if employees are to remain on in employment after their normal retirement age, you should start considering the employment and pension implications of this now….

*Some recent cases on Compulsory Retirement ages that are interesting reads are Longford County Council v Michael Neilon, Quigley v HSE and John O'Brien v PPI Adhesive Plastics

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