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1
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Introducing Contracts & Handbooks to Existing Staff

Introducing a contract of employment or a handbook for the first time to current employees, can be a difficult, tricky matter. Employees may view the new documentation as an intrusion, representing a new set of rules and regulations that threaten to make their lives uncomfortable. However, this does not have to be the case, you can introduce new documentation without alienating your work force. The answer lies in good communication and clear and concise documentation.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to introducing your new Bright Contract’s employee documentation to existing employees.

1. Hold an Initial Group Meeting

The purpose of this meeting will be to:

  • Notify employees of the introduction of the new contracts of employment and staff handbook.
  • Explain why they are being introduced.
  • Give a brief overview of what is contained in both documents:
    • Contract of Employment: confirms the employee’s basic terms and conditions and is fully compliant with the Terms of Employment Act
    • Staff Handbook: gives a brief overview of the type of policy that is contained in the Handbook, for example you may wish to highlight a Dress Code policy

If you are a small company, hold a company-wide meeting, inviting everyone. If your employee numbers mean this is not feasible, hold department or team meetings, ideally meeting with all affected staff on the same day to ensure a consistent message is being delivered to all staff thus preventing any misunderstanding, or false narratives starting. For any employees who are not present for the meeting ensure to debrief them as soon as possible.

At the Meeting

Ensure Top Management are Involved
It is extremely important that senior management are actively involved in introducing the new documentation to show this is a company-wide initiative, supported at the highest level.

Explain Why you are Introducing the Documentation
Give clear reasons why the business is implementing the documentation, for example:

  • We want to promote a culture of consistency and fairness in our company, where everyone knows the protocols and knows what is expected of them and what they can expect from the Company. 
  • We want to ensure we are fully compliant with employment law legislation

Emphasis the Value to the Employee
Explain to employees that they have legal rights and that the policies set out in the handbook demonstrate that the company is complying with the law and honouring their rights.

Promote the handbook as a point of reference for employees for confirmation on how a particular issue will be dealt with e.g. probation, disciplinary procedure etc.

2. Distribute the Documentation

Contracts of Employment

The Contract of Employment is a confidential document between the employer and the employee therefore all communications regarding the contract of employment are to be kept confidential. Therefore we suggest the following:

  • Issue 2 copies of the contract of employment to the employee in a sealed envelope
  • Give the employee a timeframe to read, review and sign the contract

The Staff Handbook

Following the meeting the Staff Handbook should be made available to all employees. Possible ways to do this can include:

  • Print and give each employee a hardcopy of the handbook
  • Print a number of handbooks and place them in communal locations in the place of work, e.g. the staff room
  • Email the handbook to each employee
  • Save and store the handbook in a communal location on your local drive, where it is easily accessible by all

Give staff a timeframe, e.g. 2 weeks, to read the handbook and formulate any questions they might have.

Both the staff handbook and contract of employment in Bright Contracts are available to be printed and exported as a PDF for distribution.

3: Be Prepared to Take Questions

Employees are likely to have questions, be prepared and open to answer any questions or clarify any points that employees might have. Keep open honest communications, listen to the employee’s comments, they may raise some valid issues that need to be addressed. Or employees may simply need clarification on a particular term. (The information snippets on your Bright Contracts program may help you address some employee concerns.)

Once you have had the initial staff/team meeting, it is not necessary to have further team meetings. Conversations at this point tend to be personalised, it is therefore recommended that queries are discussed individual and privately with each employee.

4: Collect Signed Documentation

Employees should sign both copies of the contract of employment, returning one to you and keeping a copy for themselves. Once the signed contract is returned, it should be placed on the personal file for future reference.

If the terms and conditions of employment (e.g. pay, hours etc.) have remained unchanged it is not essential to seek signed agreement from existing employees, however it would always be preferable. If an employee refuses to sign a contract after open discussions and no changes to the basic terms have been put forward, make a record on their file that they were given the contract and were given opportunity to discuss and fully understand the contracts, include dates and evidence of the communications.

If the terms and conditions of employment are being changed then it is important for employers to seek agreement from the employee before implementing any change. In this situation the employer should receive a signed copy of the revised contract.

There is no requirement to reach agreement with the employee on the Staff Handbook, however it can be useful to ask employees to sign to confirm that they have received and reviewed the handbook.

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Law

8
Jul 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

My Employees & The Vaccine: Can I ask for this data?

As vaccinations continue to roll out and employees begin returning to the workplace, employers are now wondering if they can lawfully collect and process information about the Covid-19 vaccination status of their employees. As mentioned in our previous Blog Post Let's Get Topical - The Vaccine Policy, information relating to an individual’s vaccination status is categorised under GDPR as special category personal data and therefore represents part of their personal health record which is why it is afforded additional protections under data protection law.

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) has published guidelines addressing the issue of what information employers can process, within these guidelines the DPC have made it clear that they do not consider there is any general legal basis for employers to request the vaccination status of their employees at this time, their reason being “in the absence of clear advice from public health authorities in Ireland that it is necessary for all employers and managers of workplaces to establish vaccination status of employees and workers, the processing of vaccine data is likely to represent unnecessary and excessive data collection for which no clear legal basis exists”.

With that being said, the DPC acknowledges that there may be certain extenuating circumstances, for example those working in frontline healthcare services, where vaccination can be considered a necessary safety measure, therefore in these situations the DPC states that an employer will likely be in a position to lawfully process vaccine data on the basis of necessity.

The current version of the Work Safely Protocol: Covid-19 National Protocol for Employers and Workers highlights that the decision to get a vaccine is entirely voluntary, and that individuals will make their own decisions as to whether they wish to receive it or not. Based on this, in the DPC’s view, this further indicates that covid-19 vaccination data should not be considered a necessary workplace safety measure, and as a result, the processing of vaccine data is unlikely to be necessary or proportionate in an employment context.
These guidelines will be subject to review if the public health advice and laws relating to the nature of the virus, the pandemic and the interplay with vaccination change which is why employers should ensure they closely monitor evolving public health guidance and laws.

To keep up to date on these changes we have recommended the following resources:

- GOV.ie 

- HSE.ie

- World Health Organization 

Bright Contracts has recently been updated to include a Data Protection Policy and Vaccine Policy which covers these consideration points for our customers to include in their employee handbooks, which can be found under the terms and conditions tab.

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, GDPR, Health & Safety

11
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Supporting Female Employees: Implementing a Menopause Policy

2021 has been a year of big change for everyone and has given rise to many different topics of conversation, a vitally important topic is that of menopause among the female workforces. A media outlet which we believe captures the importance of the conversation around menopause perfectly is The Irish Times who published an article in May 2021 about menopause and the article made reference to how ‘The menopause is where mental health was 10 years ago’. A statement which could not be more true. The origin of this article stemmed from women’s testimonies on Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme and has continued across all media since including being taken up in the Seanad by Senator Pauline O’Reilly. These discussions have brought to the surface the realisation that menopause is considered a taboo subject, like mental health was and like mental health we are not educated enough in what menopause is, the symptoms of it and how we can help those going through menopause which is why it is so important for employers to educate their workforce and to recognise the importance of supporting women in the workplace who are transitioning through menopause which is why we believe it is vitally important for organisations to implement a menopause policy as we believe it needs to be acknowledged and recognised as an important occupational issue requiring supports to be made available.

To ensure that companies show a positive attitude towards the menopause, we want to encourage employers to create an atmosphere where women feel there are colleagues with whom they can comfortably discuss menopausal symptoms and that they can ask for support and adjustments in order to work safely and without fear of negative repercussions. For this reason, the menopause is an issue for men as well as women. So let’s touch on the basics of menopause by answering the simple question, ‘What is menopause?’ Menopause is a natural stage of life when a woman’s estrogen levels decline and she stops having periods. As menopausal symptoms are typically experienced for several years, it is best described as a ‘transition’ rather than a one-off event. The menopause typically happens between age 45 and 55. The ‘perimenopause’ is the phase leading up to the menopause, when a woman’s hormone balance starts to change. For some women this can start as early as their twenties or as late as their late forties.

There are various symptoms that can be experienced through menopause and can be both physical and/or psychological. They can include: hot flushes, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, memory lapses, anxiety, depression and heart palpitations and each of these symptoms can affect an employee’s comfort and performance at work which is why we developed our menopause policy to ensure you are assisting your female employees in their daily duties. In order to assist those experiencing these symptoms in their daily duties, it is important that your company menopause policy explores making reasonable accommodations to the individuals role or working environment with the aim of reducing the effect that the menopause is having on the individual which is explored in our new menopause policy available on Bright Contracts today! We are committed to ensuring appropriate support and assistance is provided to female employees and that exclusionary or discriminatory practices will not be tolerated. Our menopause policy is fully compliant with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 as well as the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015.

Check out your Bright Contracts today to view the update, or if you would like to become a Bright Contracts user you can download the software and purchase a licence today. 
To access the update, log out of your Bright Contracts company file and log back in, you will then see a yellow bar across the top of the page asking you if you would like to upgrade the content.

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Customer Update, Employee Handbook, Employment Law, Health & Safety, Software Upgrade, Staff Handbook

2
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

As Easy As 1,2,3: Key Elements of Safe Return to The Workplace

Following on from our previous blog post Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely? this blog post will detail the first 3 key elements of The Return to Work Safely Protocol:

1. Lead Worker Representative

2. Review Risk Assessment & Health & Safety Policies

3. Develop a COVID-19 Response Plan

1. Lead Worker Representative

Each workplace must appoint at least one lead worker representative, who along with management will have responsibility for ensuring that COVID-19 preventative measures are adhered to. 

The Protocol very much promotes collaboration between the employer and employees, and having a Lead Worker Representative is very much key to having everybody working off the same page. 

The HSA are currently running an online course to qualify your chosen employee as a Lead Worker Representative which we encourage you to have your chosen employee complete.

2. Review Risk Assessment & Health & Safety Policies

The next step is to review 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. 

If there is a change to how work is carried out, you will need to review your Health & Safety policies. 

3. Develop a COVID-19 Response Plan

The next mandatory point is that all workplaces must develop a Covid-19 Response Plan. This is best thought of as a comprehensive catch-all document that deals with all points of relevance relating to COVID-19 and your workplace. 

The Protocol specifically sets out the information you must include in your Response Plan, this will include:

    • Stating how you will deal with a Suspected Case of Covid-19 in your workplace. You should appoint one employee with responsibility for dealing with suspected cases. You must have a designated isolation area to accommodate someone who may have contracted the virus. The idea being that you have a sterile environment where the employee can go if they are unable to go home straight away.
    • Secondly you will need to reference Cleaning & Hygiene. State how frequently your common areas and frequently touched surfaces are being cleaning. Have you provided sufficient hand washing / sanitisation facilities – all that type of thing. 
    • Reference the measures you have taken to ensure physical distancing.
    • You need to commit to keeping staff informed and up-to-date on what is happening in your workplace and also on public health advice. 
    • Employees have a responsibility here to; they must ensure that they are keeping up-to-date and abiding by the preventative measures being put in place. So it is important to include this in the Response Plan. 
    • And finally mental health. . . mental health is specifically referenced in the Protocol – you will need to reference and discuss how you are supporting employees whether it is through your EAP program or the HAS has provided helpful sources on their website which you should inform your employees are available to them.
For those of you who are using our Bright Contracts package, Bright Contracts has been updated with a template Covid-19 response plan which can be found in the 'Optional Sections' tab of the software. It covers everything referenced just now and more.
The policy has been written closely following HSA guidelines and checklists. We would certainly advise that you review the policy and adapt it to include what is relevant in your organisation, but it is a fantastic blue print to ensure you are addressing all the points you need to. 

Stay tuned for next weeks blog post to read the remainder of the key elements of 'The Return to Work Safely Protocol'.

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Customer Update

21
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely?

Over a year ago now, thousands of employees left their offices and relocated to home offices. As the year went on we began to see different trends in working patterns emerging. I suppose, one of the more worrying of those trends is the fact that whilst working from has had its benefits in terms of flexibility, it has also blurred the lines between work and home life, according to a LinkedIn survey, employees working from home are on average putting in an extra 38 hours work per month. So effectively an extra week per month. The same survey also revealed that home working left employees feeling stressed out. With mental health being one of the key topics of the last year, this is something that needs to be taken seriously.
So how do employers ensure they return their employees to work safely and also ensure their mental health isn’t effected? . . . Well let us be your guiding light and help you navigate through this.
As our customers look to bring their staff back to work, we have received questions on the Return to Work Safely Protocol and also questions on the practicalities of bringing staff back. Some staff will have not worked yet in 2021, they are at home perhaps in a very small bubble – so it is probably a fair assumption to say that there will be some anxieties from staff in relation to returning to the workplace. So it is important for employers to take some time to consider how best to manage the process of returning to work.
To give you an example:
A staff member is refusing to come back to work. What do I do? So the first thing to ask here is what are the individual’s reasons for not wanting to return to work.
Do they have health & safety concerns?
People have been safe at home for a long time now and there is an understandable anxiety amongst some people about going back into the workplace. If this is the reason, then you need to show to the employee how you have met the requirements of the Protocol and how you are taking preventative measures in the workplace. As an employer you have a duty to ensure employee’s safety, health and welfare so it is important that you are taking the right measures and then able to put your employee’s minds at ease. The Return to Work Protocol promotes communication and collaboration between employers and employees. Employees need to be able to show employees the preventative measures they have taken. Perhaps details of risk assessments completed. If there is a particular employee with specific health concerns, you will need to take into account their specific risk factors which you may consult with the employee on.
Lastly, are they afraid to travel on public transport?
Be open to suggestions here as much as possible such as staggering work times in order for them to avoid peak transport times which will mean packed public transport so as previously mentioned be open to suggestions as much as possible.

The Return to Work Safely Protocol was originally published last May, it was then revised and a new version reissued in November 2020 and again in May 2021 to include new learnings on Covid in the workplace. The Protocol sets out a number of measures in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Health Service Authority (HSA) also has responsibility for compliance. Overall it has been reported that through their covid-19 work safely inspections there has been a high level of compliance but there has been concerns raised by Public Health around some workplace social contacts where employees are more likely to drop their guard. Specifically, these are around the following issues:
• wearing a face mask
• maintaining physical distancing
• hand hygiene
• cleaning common touch areas
• having visible public health messaging around the workplace
• gathering at lunch breaks
The HSA has advised that employers review the Work Safely Protocol, to ensure that they are fully adhering to its recommendations. They would also encourage employers to re-engage with staff to ensure they are reminded not to attend work if they have COVID-19 symptoms. So what is in the Protocol? There are 7 Key considerations, which are:

  1. Lead Worker Representative
  2. Review Risk Assessment & Health & Safety Policies
  3. Develop a COVID-19 Response Plan
  4. Complete Pre-Return to Work Forms
  5. Provide COVID-19 induction training for all staff
  6. Keeping a log of contact/group work to facilitate contact tracing
  7. Review other Company Policies

These will be covered each week beginning from Monday the 24th of April in blog posts so keep an eye out!

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Health & Safety

12
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Time Saving With Bright Contracts

Contracts. . . they are the pain point of every HR professional when recruiting new employees, processing promotions, extending contracts etc. To non HR professionals it may seem like typing up contracts is quick and easy work but this could not be further from the truth. The following are just some of the pain points I’ve had when typing up contracts, read and tick off any that may apply to you too when creating contracts of employment:

  • Formatting Issues
  • Grammatical Errors
  • Mis-matched Fonts
  • Saving Error: Corrupted file error meaning I have lost my entire document
  • Time consuming reading complete contract to check for errors
  • Printing Errors: Prints off centre or like a jigsaw puzzle making it frustrating to read

Well, how many points did you tick off that were applicable to you? If you found yourself even ticking off two of the above then you need Bright Contracts in your life as this software eliminates every single one of them pain points and produces a consistent, formatted, clean and compliant contract and handbook for each of your employees.

Read the below quick fire Q&A to gain an insight into what bright Contracts is, how it works and how it can help you with your contract and handbook creation:


What is Bright Contracts?
Bright Contracts is a software package that has everything you need to create and manage a professional staff handbook and contracts of employment. What was once traditionally an expensive, complicated and time-consuming process is now quick, easy and affordable with Bright Contracts.

Why should I use it?
Without employee contracts in place, an employer is risking large settlements in the case of staff disputes, and fines in the case of regulatory inspections. Having contracts also clearly defines the contractual relationship between you and your employees. Bright Contracts is the easiest way to get sorted.

What legislation is the software based on?
Bright Contracts has been written taking into account employment legislation across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The main piece of legislation governing the content of Bright Contracts is The Employments Rights Act 1996 and The Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. The legislation specifies that employees must receive written terms and conditions of employment and what these terms and conditions are. In addition Bright Contracts has taken cognizance of current best practices as well as all relevant legislation in the creation of the content of the contract and handbook. Legislation also requires that employers are provided with details of procedures relating to dismissal, disciplinary and grievances, all of which are covered in our documentation.

How do we know this system complies with requirements and what if the law changes?
The system content has been compiled and tested by HR/Employment law experts. The system will be updated with any changes in legislation, changes brought about by case law or changes in best practice. These updates will be flagged to all current users and will be free to download.

How many people can access Bright Contracts?
When a licence is purchased it comes with two activations which means it can be activated on two separate computers. Once these activations have been used they cannot be deactivated and reactivated on another device.

Do I print off the handbooks and contracts?
The simple answer is yes however if you are trying to reduce your paper foot print then you can also have the handbook and contracts of employment as a pdf document which can then be e-mailed or, if you use our Bright Pay Connect product you can upload the documents to the employee’s connect profile.

You can avail of a free trial of the software or purchase a Bright Contracts licence to adapt these policies to your business today. If you are looking to adopt or change your HR Software book a free 15-minute online demo to see how Bright Contracts can change your world of HR.

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Contract, Employment Law, Staff Handbook

11
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Changes under the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021

Following on from the signatory into law by the President on the 27th of March, new provisions under the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021 were passed and as a result of these changes working parents are now entitled to additional time off under Parent’s Leave and adoptive couples can choose which parent can avail of Adoptive Leave.

What do these changes mean for employees?
Parent’s Leave
Paid parent’s Leave was initially introduced through the enactment of the Parent's Leave and Benefit Act 2019 and provided that 'relevant parents' of a child, born or adopted on or after 1st November 2019, were entitled to two weeks' paid leave, subject to eligibility, at a rate of €245 per week by the Department of Social Protection. A parent of a child born on or after 1st November 2019, a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the child’s parent, a parent of a donor-conceived child as provided for under section 5 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, an adopting parent or parents of a child or the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the adopting parent of the child. If the parent has already taken their two-week entitlement, then they can take a further three weeks in 2021 (subject to the two year limit).

Prior to this change, the parent availing of the leave had to take their Parent’s Leave entitlement within 52 weeks of their child’s birth or, placement with their adoptive family. Following the enactment of the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021, as of April 1st 2021, parents are now entitled to five weeks leave under Parent’s Leave, which is an additional three weeks on the previous entitlement. The Act extends the period in which the leave can be taken, the leave can now be taken within the first two years after the birth or adoptive placement of a child. The purpose of this extension is to allow parents the opportunity to spend more time with their children during the first two years of their child’s life. Employers are not obliged to pay parents availing of Parent’s Leave; however, they can top-up the Parent’s Benefit if they wish.

Adoptive Leave
Under the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 and 2005, an adopting mother or sole male adoptive parent, in employment, is entitled to 24 weeks of adoptive leave from work which begins on the day of the child’s placement. Under the Act, the adoptive parent can apply for an adoptive benefit payment from the Department of Social Protection. The enactment of the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021 amends the Adoptive Leave Acts to enable adoptive couples to choose which parent may avail of adoptive leave therefore removing the assumption that the adopting mother is the primary caregiver.

As part of this entitlement, an additional 16 weeks leave is available to the adoptive parent but is not covered for state benefit. While employers are not obliged to pay employees who are on Adoptive Leave more favourable arrangements can be put in place.

What does this mean for employers?

There are now several options available to parents for leave which include the above, such as maternity leave, paternity leave and parental leave. Employees are fully covered by employment legislation while availing of any of these leave options and are therefore subject to the same protections and cannot be penalised in any way. Employers should review their contracts of employment and the appropriate policies and procedures to ensure that the recent changes have been applied and communicated to all employees at the earliest opportunity.

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Vaccinations and The Workplace

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Employment Law, News, Parental Leave

4
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Vaccine & The New World of Work Webinar

With vaccination rollout currently underway across Ireland employers are beginning to look at returning a number of their employees to the workplace over the coming months which means plans need to be in place and actions need to be carried out to ensure it is as smooth and safe a return as possible.

We recently hosted a webinar recently which detailed for our customers how best to tackle returning their employees to the workplace including implementing a vaccine policy. To view the webinar recording click below:

Bright Contracts has recently updated its software to include a COVID-19 vaccine policy applicable to any business/ industry. This policy is in addition to the COVID-19 Response Plan and Temporary Working From Home Policy currently available on Bright Contracts.

You can avail of a free trial of the software or purchase a Bright Contracts licence to adapt these policies to your business today. If you are looking to adopt or change your HR Software book a free 15-minute online demo to see how Bright Contracts can change your world of HR.

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Customer Update, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Update, GDPR, Health & Safety, Software Upgrade

15
Apr 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Vaccinations and The Workplace

With vaccinations rolling out we expect to see the vast majority of healthy adults receiving the vaccine over late summer and early autumn. Thus, providing some optimism for employers who can start planning to return their employees to the workplace. This raises questions such as; can employer’s ensure employees’ health and safety when they return to the workplace? Can employers mandate that all their employees be vaccinated before returning?

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, it is the employer's responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees, therefore it is not unreasonable for an employer to want to have their workforce vaccinated. In November 2020, The Work Safely Protocol was introduced making it essential for employers to ensure these protocols are fully implemented if they intend on having their employees return to the workplace, subject to the restriction levels in force.

While it has been highly recommended by the Health & Safety Authority that everyone receives the Covid-19 vaccine, it is not mandatory in Ireland and it is a person’s fundamental right to bodily integrity which is covered under the Irish Constitution. This leaves employers in a challenging situation; while they are seeking to ensure they have a safe workplace for their employees, they cannot force their employees to get vaccinated and it is very unlikely that the Irish Government will introduce any laws stating employees are obliged to take the vaccine. Therefore, what are the main considerations for employers?

1.Assess the Risk

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, an employer must carry out a risk assessment of the workplace and any potential risks that have been identified must be addressed, The Work Safely Protocol should be adhered to in all workplaces. As scientists are still not clear on whether the vaccine prevents the spread of Covid-19 it is vitally important that employers insist that all employees follow the safety protocols in place whether they have been vaccinated or not.

Employees also have responsibilities under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act to work together with their employer to protect themselves and their colleagues from potential risks; this could reasonably include the risk of Covid-19 infection. Employees must adhere to all guidelines and protocols implemented by their employers.
Communication is crucial; while employers cannot force their employees to get vaccinated, they can emphasise the importance of the vaccine to their employees and that it would help to return business to normal. Employers should also provide as much information from appropriate sources to educate and inform their employees. An employer may also highlight legitimate circumstances where vaccination is not recommended.

 2. Avoid Potential Discrimination

Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2011, employees are protected from discrimination on the nine grounds including religion, age and disability. An employee may decide not to get the vaccine for a number of reasons that would fall under these specific grounds, such as a medical condition or their religious beliefs. Therefore, it is important to note that any mandate by an employer that employees need to take the vaccine could constitute discrimination under this Act.

3.Managing Employees who Refuse Vaccination

There is little an employer can do if their employee refuses to get the vaccine however, understanding their concerns is important and finding solutions that meet the business needs without infringing on their rights is crucial in managing their integration into the workplace. Extending remote working may be a solution however this may not be viable for all sectors of your company. Employers need to think carefully about any action they take and consider the potential legal consequences associated with these actions.

4.Data Protection Concerns

As part of assessing the risks, employers will certainly want to know who has or has not been vaccinated before bringing employees back to the workplace. In order to process this personal data, there must be a legal basis to do so, the grounds for which are set out in Article 6 of the General Data Protection Regulations. Employees are not legally obliged to provide personal medical information.

While employees are not obliged to provide personal medical information, employers may seek vaccination information on the foundation that they are meeting their legal obligations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts. It will be up to the employee if they wish to volunteer this information to their employer. If they choose to volunteer this information, then employers should not disclose this information to other employees. As this type of medical information falls under the sensitive category of Special Category Personal Data, then under GDPR and data protection laws there are additional protections afforded to the processing of this information. If an employee volunteers the fact that they have not nor intend to avail of the vaccine, it should be emphasized that there may be legitimate medical reasons why someone may not receive the vaccine.

In conclusion, given the fact the vast majority of the working population will not be returning to the workplace until later this year, it is hoped that the vast majority will have availed of the vaccine. However, communication and planning are essential in ensuring a smooth transition when the return to the workplace occurs. Employers must ensure health and safety policies and procedures are updated, risk assessments are carried out and adhering to the Work Safely Protocol, all of which are essential in getting people back into the workplace. Remember to be mindful and respectful of an individual’s right to not avail of the vaccine and plan accordingly by offering alternative working arrangements where appropriate and avoid any situation which may constitute discrimination thus leading to legal issues.

Bright Contracts has recently updated its software to include a COVID-19 vaccine policy applicable to any business/ industry. This policy is in addition to the COVID-19 Response Plan and Temporary Working From Home Policy currently available on Bright Contracts.
You can avail of a free trial of the software or purchase a Bright Contracts licence to adapt these policies to your business today. If you are looking to adopt or change your HR Software book a free 15-minute online demo to see how Bright Contracts can change your world of HR.

Webinar: The Vaccine & The New World of Work          Register Today!

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus

30
Mar 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Bullying in the Workplace: What constitutes as bullying?

Workplace bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.

Examples of bullying behaviour includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Exclusion with negative consequences
  • Verbal abuse/insults
  • Being treated less favourably than colleagues in similar roles
  • Belittling a person’s opinion
  • Disseminating malicious rumours, gossip or innuendo
  • Socially excluding or isolating a person within the work sphere
  • Intrusion - pestering, spying or stalking
  • Intimidation/aggressive interactions
  • Excessive monitoring of work
  • Withholding information necessary for proper performance of a person's job
  • Repeatedly manipulating a person's job content and targets
  • Blaming a person for things beyond their control
  • Use of aggressive and obscene language

What is not considered workplace bullying?

An isolated incident of the behaviour described in the above definition may offend dignity at work, but, as a once off incident, is not considered to be bullying. Workplace bullying should meet the criteria of an on-going series of accumulation of seriously, negative, targeted behaviours against a person or persons to damage their esteem and standing in a harmful, continuous way.

Under the Code, the following examples set out behaviours that do not constitute as bullying:

  • Expressing differences of opinion strongly
  • Offering unwelcome constructive feedback, guidance, or advice about work-related behaviour
  • Ordinary performance management
  • Acceptable corrective action taken by an employer/ supervisor which relates to the management and direction of an employee (for example, an employer managing a worker’s performance, taking reasonable disciplinary action against the employee, or assigning the employee work)
  • Complaints relating to instructions issued by a manager, assignment of duties, terms and conditions of employment or other matters, which are appropriate for referral under other normal grievance procedures, do not constitute bullying.

How does bullying manifest in the workplace?

Workplace bullying ought to meet the criteria of a reoccurring cycle and accumulation of negative directed behaviours against a person or persons to damage their esteem and standing in a harmful, sustained way. A pattern and trend are involved so that a reasonable person would regard such behaviour as clearly wrong, undermining and humiliating. Bullying activities involve actions and behavioural patterns, directly or indirectly, spoken and/or written and could include the use of cyber or digital means for the goal of bullying.

The Bright Contracts Handbook has now been updated to reflect the bullying code of practice for employers and employees on the prevention and resolution of bullying in the workplace. To access the update, log out of your Bright Contracts company file and log back in, you will then see a yellow bar across the top of the page asking you if you would like to upgrade the content.

 If you are not a Bright Contracts customer but are looking to adopt or change your HR Software please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Book a free 15-minute online demo to see how Bright Contracts can change your world of HR.


Posted in Bright Contracts News, Bullying and Harassment, Company handbook

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