As 2016 draws to a close, we look back at the last 12 months and share with you our review of some of the key employment law changes of the year.
National Minimum Wage Increase
With effect from 1 January 2016, the National Minimum Wage was increased from €8.65 per hour to €9.15 per hour. This increase was made following a recommendation from the Low Pay Commission (LPC) in 2015. The LPC was established as an independent statutory body in July 2015. Its primary function is to examine and make recommendations annually to the Government on the appropriate level of the NMW.
In January 2017, the minimum wage rate will rise to €9.25 per hour.
Justification of Retirement Age
The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 has introduced significant changes to retirement ages. Prior to the commencement of the Act (1 January 2016), the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015 provided an employer with the ability to fix a compulsory retirement age, as set out in Section 34 of the Acts. This remains the case however, Section 34 of the act has been amended to align it with the Employment Equality Framework Directive 2000/78/EC. Therefore, employers are now required to be able to objectively justify their retirement age. The retirement age should seek to achieve a legitimate aim such as intergenerational fairness, and the means of achieving the aim should be both appropriate and necessary.
Furthermore, the amendment to s.6 of the 1998 Act means that employers must now objectively justify offering a fixed-term contract of employment to a person who has reached the organisation’s retirement age.
Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016
Under the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016, which came into effect on 29 April 2016, specified minor convictions will become spent after 7 years. This means that an adult convicted of an offence covered by the Act does not have to disclose the conviction (to a prospective employer for example) after 7 years, except in certain circumstances. The Act does not apply to any sexual offence, an offence that was tried in the Central Criminal Court, or an offence resulting in a prison sentence of greater than 12 months.
In the recruitment process many employers have required applicants to declare any previous convictions on their application forms. This Act will now restrict employers from asking for such declarations and employees cannot be penalised for non – declaration of spent convictions.
The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 commenced on 1 September 2016. The Act enables a “relevant parent” to take two weeks’ paternity leave which must commence within the first 26 weeks of the birth/adoption of a child. Subject to eligibility and notification criteria being met, paternity leave will apply to births/placements that take place on or after the 1 September 2016. During paternity leave, employees who have the necessary PRSI contributions and hold a Public Services Card are entitled to paternity benefit from the Department of Social Protection (€230 per week).
Get advice on Employment & Labour Laws in Ireland. Contact us now at 01-5252914 for your Paternity Leave policy or any other advice.
Margaret McCarthy, HR Consultant