The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty has confirmed the new Employment Bill, which has been in the pipeline now for a number of years, will come into force on the 4th March. The Bill is being introduced to ‘improve the security of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours’, common in (but not exclusive to) service industries such as hospitality, tourism and retail. These industries often rely on flexibility in the employment contract and therefore the introduction of this new Bill will require them to take note.
The new Act makes certain breaches a criminal offence; where the employer does not comply with the new obligations in the Bill to provide the required information within one month, can lead to criminal prosecution. Fines on conviction could be up to €5,000 or imprisonment of up to twelve months or both. Directors, managers, secretaries or other officers of a company can be individually liable, i.e. be prosecuted individually for offences.
The Act also introduces an anti-penalisation provision whereby an employer may not penalize an employee for exercising their rights under the 1994 Terms of Employment Act. An employee who is penalized can be awarded compensation of such amounts as the WRC considers just but will not exceed four weeks remuneration.
The new Act will bring significant changes for Irish employers and employees and according to Minister Regina Doherty; the Act is a “once-in-a-generation reform of our labour market.”
The Employment Act 2018 creates a new right for employees whose employment contract does not accurately reflect the reality of the hours they work on a consistent basis. After a reference period of 12 months, employees will be able to request in writing to be placed in a band of hours that better reflect their average weekly hours worked. In response, employers are obliged to place the employee in the appropriate band and should do so within four weeks of receiving the employee’s request.
The appropriate band is determined by the employer on the basis of the average number of hours worked by the employee per week during the reference period.
The appropriate bands are laid down in law as set out in the below table.
|Band A:||3 to 6 hours|
|Band B:||6 to 11 hours|
|Band C:||11 to 16 hours|
|Band D:||16 to 21 hours|
|Band E:||21 to 26 hours|
|Band F:||26 to 31 hours|
|Band G:||31 to 36 hours|
|Band H:||over 36 hours|
An employer may refuse to place an employee in a band in one of the following circumstances:
In determining the 12 month reference period, a continuous period of employment immediately before the legislation is to be enacted on 4th March 2019 will be reckonable towards the 12 month reference period.
Another question that comes up from time to time is how and when to initiate the disciplinary procedures - How many warnings can an employee receive before being dismissed? When do I give a final warning? Can I fire my employee for committing an offence of gross misconduct?
The first step is always to inform the employee of issues that you may have, even minor issues; whether it is with their job performance, their time keeping, or even a breach of company rules, by means of informal counselling. The employee must be given the appropriate time/measures to defend themselves or at least be given the chance to rectify the problem. Prior to taking the decision to invoke the disciplinary procedure, the employer must ensure that the situation has been thoroughly investigated.
The following disciplinary procedures should apply in matters of discipline; constant repetition of minor offences, willful negligence or unsatisfactory performance or complaints, that are found to be proven against the employees.
The stages in the procedure are as follows:
• Stage 1 - Verbal Warning
• Stage 2 - First Written Warning
• Stage 3 - Final Written Warning - The final written warning will state clearly that the next stage may be termination of employment if conduct and/or performance does not improve.
• Stage 4: Action Short of Dismissal - In exceptional circumstances, and depending on the individual case, The Company may exercise its discretion to suspend with or without pay. Demotion to a lower position or rate of pay and transfer to another position may also be considered. This is action short of dismissal.
• Stage 5: Dismissal - In an instance of gross misconduct, a full investigation will be conducted and a disciplinary meeting will be held. This will follow the normal procedures outlined above, but the outcome, if found to be gross misconduct, will almost certainly result in dismissal due to the serious nature of the situation.
At each stage in the procedure a disciplinary meeting should be held, where all the facts will be considered and any mitigating circumstances discussed, as well as timelines imposed for improvements, etc. Where a warning is issued, a copy will be placed on the employees personnel file for a defined period. All warnings issued under this procedure will state clearly that the employee will be liable for further disciplinary action should their performance not improve or should there be a further breach of company rules or procedures. In the event of no further transgression occurring and the performance improving, the warning will be removed after a period of no more than 12 months and the employee’s file will be clear. The employee will also be advised of his/her right to appeal against disciplinary action taken.
This is an area where employer’s need to tread carefully, at all times fair procedures must be applied and the company’s’ policy regarding disciplinary steps and sanctions should be adhered to. Once these steps are followed there is no reason why an employer cannot dismiss an employee without repercussions. Most employers tend to fall down and lose Unfair Dismissal cases brought against them, not because they didn’t have disciplinary procedures in place, but because they did and they failed to actually follow them.
Bright Contracts has a very robust Discipline and Grievance Policy set out in its Handbook with all the relevant procedures that an employer needs. To download a free trial of Bright Contracts click here. To request an online demo of Bright Contracts, click here.
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Nearly 7 months since the General data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced across all of Europe, complaints around Data Protection have nearly doubled in the UK and are up by nearly 2 thirds in Ireland.
GDPR was designed to give Data Subjects more control over their personal data, with more transparency and the threat of larger fines to those in breach of the new rules. The GDPR requires any company that suffers a data breach to notify its users/data subjects within 72 hours of the breach being discovered.
• Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), head of communications - Graham Doyle has said that ‘there has been a significant increase in the volumes of both breaches and complaints to the DPC since May 25th.’ Since GDPR enforcement began the DPC has seen monthly data breach reports double, while data protection complaints increased by 65%.
• Data protection complaints to the UK’s Information Commissioners Office (ICO) rose to 4214 in July compared to just 2310 complaints received in May before the GDPR came into force. A spokes person for the ICO said the increase was expected, as more users became aware of data protection because of publicity around the new rules and following a series of high-profile data scandals involving big technology firms.
Experts note, however that the increase does not mean that the number of data breaches has suddenly gone up, but rather reflects the full scale of the data breach problem becoming better known.
Organisations that fail to comply with GDPR can face fines of up to 4% of annual global revenue or €20 million, whichever is greater. So far none of the EU’s Data Protection Agency’s has issued any fines. Graham Doyle at the DPC said ‘It is too soon to expect to see any fines levied against organizations that have violated GDPR – given its only 3 months after it went into full effect.’
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As one of Ireland’s largest payroll software providers, we have a lot of customers using our payroll software, but did you know that we have a number of other HR, payroll and accounts software packages available?
Payroll Manager is a payroll software market leader in Ireland. Having been tried, tested and evolved for over two decades, our customers use Payroll Manager to pay hundreds of thousands of employees every month. If you want a mature and reliable payroll software solution with a proven track record and a national support network, look no further!
BrightPay is a payroll software which is future-proof, having been programmed using modern technology, it allows the user to process and run payroll effortlessly no matter how large or complicated it may be. Having a feature-rich interface allowing the user to customise reports, set up unlimited pay rates, additions and deductions, the options are endless making the weekly/monthly pay-run a breeze!
Thesaurus Connect is a powerful add-on to the payroll software which enables secure automatic backups of your payroll data to the cloud. The web based self-service dashboard for employers and their employees is an invaluable tool for those employers looking to put their best foot forward in terms of GDPR readiness and compliance.
Thesaurus Accounts is a robust bookkeeping and accounts package that has stood the test of time. Designed by bookkeepers and accountants, it is the choice of thousands of Irish companies. It looks after all of the prime books of entry right through to trial balance and management accounts.
The National Minimum Wage for an experienced adult worker is increasing to €9.55 per hour from January 1st 2018. This is the third year in a row that the NMW has been increased but this is by far the largest with an increase of .30c
The National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 provides for a minimum hourly rate of pay for all workers.
All workers, including full time, part time, casual and temporary will be deemed to be covered by the act with only 2 exceptions; close relatives of the employer and certain industry specific apprentices.
Workers can be broken down into 5 different categories; experienced adult workers in employment more than 2 years and over the age of 18, a worker under the age of 18, workers in their first and second year of employment who are over the age of 18 and trainees’ who are undergoing a course that satisfies certain conditions set out in the Act.
The new minimum hourly rates are:
Breaches of the act are deemed to be criminal offences and are punishable with hefty fines and even imprisonment.
The controversial JobBridge scheme, brought in in 2011 as an initiative to help the unemployed get work experience, will be wound down from this Friday, Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar has announced.
The minister said that those on the scheme currently would be able to finish their internship but that a new scheme will take place of the scheme going forward. The new employment scheme will be introduced for jobseekers in late 2017.
The new scheme will likely have employers making some form of contribution for being included in the scheme which will reduce the possibility of exploitation of the scheme and the new scheme will see jobseekers earning at least the minimum wage.
Some jobseekers on the JobBridge scheme were felt to have been exploited by some companies and that along with the small top-up payment of just €52 per week, led to heavy criticism from the beginning by certain groups and political parties.
A report launched by Indecon International Research Economists found that the scheme had been successful in helping people return to the job market. Over 10,500 interns who had gone through the JobBridge scheme took part in a survey for the report. In total, 64.2% of people who had gone through the scheme were now employed. In terms of intern satisfaction, the responses varied under different aspects. However, over half of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the value of the JobBridge top up payment, and three out of 10 didn’t believe the scheme met their expectations.
Over the next number of weeks we are going to look at Working Time Protected Leave legislation in Ireland, this legislation is in place to protect employees and includes leave such as; Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave, Carer’s Leave, Parental Leave & Force Majeure Leave. Today we will start with Paternity Leave.
In last year’s budget, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition had agreed to legislate to allow for fathers/partners to take two weeks’ paid paternal leave. The legislation will allow fathers to take the leave at any stage within 26 weeks of the birth or placement of the child in adoption situations.
The new legislation is due to come into force in September this year and when it does it will mean that for the first time in history, the role of fathers in postnatal care will be formally recognized on our little island. From September, every employer in Ireland must offer new fathers/partners two weeks’ paternity leave following the birth of a child. The state will pay fathers €460 for the leave, which is in line with current maternity pay. However, as with the Maternity pay, employers are under no obligation to pay the father while they are out on Paternity Leave. Remember to update your company handbook to include a policy for the new Paternity Leave when it does come in.
Great though it is to finally have some leave in place for fathers, we still have a long way to go before reaching the dizzy heights of paternity leave Scandinavian-style, where the model is usually one of paid parental leave to be shared between both parents, with some non-transferable months. In Sweden for example, parents can take up to sixteen months of leave, paid up to 80% of salary (with a cap of €4,000 per month). Our closest neighbours in the UK allow 2 weeks paid Paternity Leave but have also introduced “Shared Parental Leave” of up to 52 weeks after the birth/placement of a child which can be shared between both parents. Ireland, generally comes bottom of the European table in terms of family leave, so Paternity Leave, even at just 2 weeks is very welcome.
It has been revealed today that the State will commence paying out two weeks’ worth of paternity benefit from June next year. The measure is a central plank of the Coalition's childcare strategy due to be announced as part of next month's Budget.
There will also be a special focus on reducing the cost of pre-school and after-school care services, especially for families who have children with special needs. The childcare package will be treated in a similar fashion in the Budget to the reform of the Universal Social Charge (USC).
Meanwhile, Children's Minister James Reilly said reducing the cost of pre-school and crèche facilities for families, especially those with children with special needs, will also be kicked started in 2016. However, he did not specify the form in which benefits will be paid to families.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dr Reilly said the package would aim to end "poor quality childcare" that can have a "detrimental effect on children".
Specific measures aimed at reducing the burden on parents will be brought in incrementally over the life-span of the next Government. But sources say there are considerable negotiations still required before an overall package is agreed. However, agreement has been reached on the issue of paternity benefit.
The announcement of Budget 2016 is just around the corner, on Tuesday the 13th Of October. So what can us PAYE workers expect?
Well, according to Mr Noonan we will have in the region of €1.5 billion extra to spend which will make for the first positive Irish Budget in 8 years.
The extra €1.5 billion is to be split equally between spending increases and tax cuts.
Changes to the PRSI system and reduction in the Universal Social Charge are apparently afoot. This should put at ease the minds of those low-paid workers who, with the increase in minimum wage would have actually ended up taking home less pay due to the increase in USC and PRSI.
There may also be cuts to USC and PRSI for those with higher earnings. The Government having previously promised to cut the 7% rate of USC to reduce the marginal tax rate on all those earning less than €70,000 a year to below 50%.
Vague promises on keeping the burden of taxation low and ending the unfair treatment of the small businesses and self-employed as well as improvements to Child Benefits are floating around but whether or not the Government keeps those promises remains to be seen.