Posts Tagged ‘Employee’

Podcast: Co-Managing Director Joyce Rigby-Jones chatting with Linda Ward

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Voltedge Co-Managing Director Joyce Rigby-Jones is chatting with Linda Ward, MD at Retail Renewal about how retailers can support their employees and what you need to put in place before you can open the doors to your shop.

This podcast is all about helping retailers to come to terms with the new reality of trading during a pandemic. When can you reopen? What do you have to do before you reopen? What level of turnover can I expect? When will trading be back to pre-pandemic levels? How can I make my customers and staff feel safe?

Linda: So what are the most important steps that people need to take now in terms of retailers going back trying to re-open their stores and thinking about all the things that they have to do? In relation to the staff that they employ, what are the most important steps that they need to take in that area?

Joyce: The most important thing is to look at this as a major continuity plan and put in place a plan and appoint a contact. We are advising all our clients to appoint a Covid-19 Coordinator; that person will take on the role of making sure that the organisation is in tune with what’s happening or that they’re following all the government and HSE advice that’s coming down the line. So the Coordinator is really pushing out information to the employees, keeping them on track, being a point of contact if they have any concerns.

So if an employee is worried about something, they can go directly to this person. In a small retail environment, that’s probably going to be the owner, but in some organisations is going to be a senior person who will take on that role and very much drive it. The really important thing is to make sure that employees know what they’re doing in terms of Covid-19 and how to deal with that in the workplace, and this Coordinator will drive that behaviour and remind them constantly of what is important in terms of the social distancing, the hygiene aspects but also how to deal with each other and customers, as they start going back to work. 

Linda: So before they get to that point of going back to work, what are the three steps, what is the sort of preparation that an employer can do and what sorts of things do they need to be thinking about before they open the doors and before they bring the staff back in?

Joyce: The employer has a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for their employees so it’s vital that they think about this. They should do a risk analysis, they will be putting in all the physical issues and actions that you’ve been going through with them in terms of shields of prospects but really they need to look at the risk analysis if one employee has backup support, have they kept maybe a couple of employees separate so that they are doing either shifts or having people coming in at different times so they’re not in contact with each other, and may want to look at checking their employees’ personal details – do they have their emergency contact person, have they got their correct addresses and phone numbers etc. and also they need to be looking at whether their employees have any issues with regard to coming back to work, perhaps they have an underlying illness themselves or maybe they’re living with someone they have concerns about.

The employer needs to be empathetic about this and actually understand personal situations, so we really need to be very close to employees and understand what’s going on in their personal lives. They may be delighted to come back to work or they may be quite scared so the owner/manager and the Covid-19 Coordinator, whether they’re the same person or not, they really need to be talking to them one-to-one and finding out how they’re going to come back. We have a pre-return to work questionnaire which is a questionnaire just checking if the employees are ready to come back and that they haven’t got any reason not to come back, and that is always important to check out as well. 

Linda: So that is like a questionnaire you’d give out to your employees before they come back to make sure that they’re ready and happy to come back and not suffering from any symptoms presumably? 

Joyce: Exactly. They’re confirming that to you and obviously, on an ongoing basis, you’re going to be checking this with employees but it means when they come back, you know that there is no issues and you are not going to worry about them coming back. 

Linda: And what about any sort of induction training that you need to give staff or anybody that is coming back to work in your organisation?

Joyce: It’s very important that you have a plan of action to ensure that you’re giving them all the information they need in terms of the protocol of return to work which the HSE and the gov.ie have given. The NSAI also have a very detailed document which goes through this but basically, what we’re trying to do, is reinforce the safe hygiene elements of returning to work but also talking to the employee about whether they need to bring in their own lunches, whether they need to look at how they’re going to get to work because potentially they shouldn’t be using public transport and also things like how do they deal with a customer if they’re in a retail environment, perhaps if they come up too close to them, how do they actually react, what do they do about this; so it’s a practical view as well of the issues that will arise in the workplace when that employee starts back again.

Linda: It sounds like communication is going to be really really important.

Joyce: Communication is key and I think that every owner or manager should be putting a Covid-19 communication discussion on the agenda every single day, so reminding employees what they need to be doing in terms of their own hygiene and also reminding them about what they need to do if customers come in, to say what they need to say to them and also talk to them about any risks or concerns they have, so it’s really a daily issue. Owners shouldn’t assume that employees know this and understand everything; they should assume that they need to be talking to them every single day until they’re absolutely confident that this is just a natural part of our normal working life again.

And I think the other issue is just being careful about how they’re looking at other things like holidays, and this has been a big issue for many employers – what do we do about holidays? We can’t go away, we can’t go to Spain or anywhere else so all the employees who had planned their summer holidays are going to say – well I don’t want to take them because I don’t have anywhere to go. Employers need to have a plan in place that addresses this, so they need to look at potentially asking employees to maybe take a couple of days a month away and also planning for at least a five day break from work in the next few months because we all need a break away even if we are going to be sitting at home, we need that break from work. So planning holidays, looking at the number of holidays that all the employees have, do an assessment, look at what you need to do about this and then start talking to the individuals and tell them that you may not be able to carry holidays to any great extent in 2021, so they need to be aware about this.

Linda: I think that’s true. I think the last weeks have been quite intense in many ways and, just talking personally, I had planned to go away for two weeks at Easter time to see my family and I couldn’t go because I couldn’t travel so I worked through those two weeks but I really miss the break and I really feel now that I haven’t had a break since last September really. I am going to take a break in ten days time and I am going to spend it sitting in the garden reading a book but at least it will be a break from the day-to-day routine and it will be a different way of being in the same place I suppose. I think it’s quite important that people actually do take that time just to be, because it has been a really stressful time for an awful lot of people and a very worrying time; living with uncertainty is not easy. 

Joyce: I totally agree with you, and even though we sort of think – well, if I take a day off, I might just gonna sit at home – well, maybe that’s what you need to do, maybe you just need to relax and do something different; we’ll have some of the shops open again shortly and we need to really be supporting our local retailers as well so maybe we go out and go to the garden centre and do something like that. It is something an employer needs to plan and they need to be talking to the individuals about this.

The other issue that Voltedge was looking at, when we were looking at the whole Covid-19 issue was the Covid-19 Curve and this is a curve that was originally devised for people going through a bereavement or a major grief and it was developed by a lady called Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969 and it shows the way we go through different phases when we’re going through a major crisis which we’re going through now, and we start off at the shock phase, which I think we all did way back in February when we heard that this virus was coming, and then we move into some sort of denial and we think it’s not really going to affect me, and then we realise that it is affecting all of us hugely, and then we end up moving into the frustration part of the curve, we maybe have never worked at home before, or maybe we’ve been laid off and we have to sit at home, we’re very worried and really concerned about what’s going to happen to our jobs. Often some people will go deep into a depressive time and feel very low, we’re missing our friends and family, we can’t see our close family and that’s been extremely difficult for employees, so again, employers need to be thinking about this.

We’ve all been through a lot of stress, we all need support, this isn’t a time for being difficult, we all have to help each other. When we’re coming out of the curve though, we’re moving into experimenting and thinking of innovative ways of how we’re going to live and deal with this uncertain world, and we’re seeing wonderful ideas coming through in the retail and other sectors where people are thinking of ways to make sure we can move forward and get used to a different reality. And we will get there, we will eventually get to a stage where this is the new normal and we will be used to it, but it’s interesting, some people will fall backwards, down the curve again, they’ll have a bad day and they’ll feel very low, and it’s up to us to understand that and bring them back up and help them move along the curve.

Linda: I can identify with that. I identify my feelings along that curve too. Just to get back to another practical thing of what retailers need to think about, what should they do if somebody comes in the shop one day and they say ‘I think I might have some symptoms, they might be Covid-19 symptoms but I’m not sure’ – what should the retailer do in that situation? 

Joyce: I think the immediate thing is to refer them to the guidelines in the HSE and they should immediately self-isolate if they think there are genuine risks of a Covid virus case. The employer should be saying to that individual ‘you need to go home, self-isolate, call your GP immediately and talk to them about what happens next’.

Linda: It also really highlights the need for social distancing and all the hygiene measures that there are advised during various protocols and how important they are, and how, if you follow them, they actually do work. There’s still a chance that, even if you have the right protocols in place within your workplace, some of your employees could still be exposed to the virus somewhere else, but if everybody did their bit in trying to keep the protocols in place, then we’re going to minimise the spread of the virus. 

Joyce: Yes and we know that there are lots of businesses that have continued to run the essential businesses and they have managed to control this really well and there is no reason why even a small employer can’t ensure that their workplace is very safe. But it is a constant reminder, it’s constant communication, and if you have a case that arises, that maybe somebody has picked up the virus somewhere else, you’ll have a plan and a risk analysis done so that if Joyce or Linda are going out sick, you have replacements, you have a back-up plan, you’re ready to run with it, so it’s all about the planning, preparation and communication.

Linda: What I’ve been taking from our conversation is the fact that communication and empathy is really important to understand where your co-worker or employee is coming from and to really reflect back to what their concerns are and make sure you address them. Empathy is needed because everybody is in a different situation. Some people might have a difficult home life or they might have a vulnerable person at home, so as an employer, you need to be aware of that and to respect that in a way that possibly pre-Covid we may not have done in quite the same way. 

Joyce: You are quite right, pre-Covid we would have been saying there are GDPR issues, for example that we shouldn’t known a lot of information, we don’t need to know information about our employees, their home lives, but actually, with Covid-19 upon us, this is the time when employers need to have enough information to ensure that they can manage the employee, support that employee, and if it means knowing a bit more about their personal lives than before, that’s what they need to be doing.

So when employees will hopefully be very open and say ‘listen I had difficulty getting into work or I am worried about a vulnerable relative’, that needs to be talked through and it needs to be looked from a risk assessment, but most employees are looking so forward to getting back to work, that it’s something they’re really happy to do and we want to facilitate that, but we have to, as employers, ensure that we are providing a safe and healthy workplace for them to return to.

Linda: And also in terms of it’s going to be safe and healthy for the customers too, because otherwise the customers are not going to come in, if they don’t feel confident that the precautions are in place, then it’s going to be difficult to attract people to come into your store.

Joyce: I think we’re seeing that already. Some stores are really excellent in terms of the way they manage their customers coming in and out and others aren’t and I believe that those stores that are really thinking through this and have good planning in place, they are the ones that are going to benefit from sales because customers will come to them first. And I know myself, even going to different supermarkets, I would be very conscious of the ones that are good and really looking after my health and safety when I go in as opposed to the ones that maybe aren’t so good.

Linda: It’s sort of bringing the whole transnational nature of retail into a very human space.

Joyce: I think so, and it will make us very different in the way that we treat employees and customers and that’s actually not a bad thing, I think it’s really good that we are knowing that we need to be looking after each other more and be much more considerate and careful and that’s a really nice thing so there are good things that will come out of this crisis. 

Listen to the podcast episode here.

The COVID-19 Curve

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

How can employers work through the Covid-19 curve and support their employees through it?

The COVID-19 virus has created a huge crisis throughout the world, and all businesses are having to take radical decisions on a daily basis.  We are all in completely uncharted territory, and we and our employees may be struggling both professionally and personally to find our way in these challenging and changing times.

Working off the original Kubler-Ross curve that was utilised originally in the 1970s (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 1969) for people going through grief, we have taken the curve and looked at the reactions that we and our employees may be going through.

We have taken our version of the COVID-19 Curve and considered the following:

  • Today – where are you now on this curve? As an employer hopefully you can move through the curve reasonably quickly as you need to be coming up the end of the curve to support your employees – everyone will work through the curve at a different pace. Some need more time than others, but as employers, we need to be driving positive behaviour and supporting employees as they struggle in the frustration and depression stages.
  • Phases & stages – recognise that each phase and stage is different and will pass. What can you do to help yourself and others move through each phase? By understanding where you and your employees are on this curve, you can provide the particular support they need e.g. if you have an employee who is really struggling and is depressed or feeling very isolated, you need to support them more to move to the next stage. Do you need to give more information or emotional support or is guidance and direction more appropriate at this stage?
  • Acceptance – by accepting our situation and moving to a more positive place, we can rationalise how we are going to continue to work in a changed world – and also make sure that there are the supports in place for ourselves and our employees. The world of work will never be the same again, so it’s vital to accept this and understand the implications. Employers have a responsibility to continually communicate to all employees as more details become available.
  • Integration – this curve gives us an understanding of the natural highs and lows we will all go through over the next few weeks and perhaps months. It will help us to understand and accept your own and others’ behaviours and responses and can give you a real understanding of why some people behave and react in certain ways.

Employers, and their employees, can have bad days and revert back to depression/frustration – they then need to work through the curve again to hopefully move to acceptance and integration.

Employers can significantly help employees by driving strong messages giving employees clear direction and strategic detail so that employees can feel they are getting more control over their working lives. In a crisis that none of us have ever experienced, the key to moving forward is to feel – both personally and professionally – that we are gaining some control over our lives.

Voltedge would like to reassure you that we are fully operational and there are no disruptions to our services. We are following government guidelines and have facilities in place to host virtual meetings and webinars in place of face to face meetings. We understand that each situation is personal to your needs, and we can work with you to customise a plan that works best for your business right now. We are available between 7am and 11pm on info@voltedge.ie, 087 220 1673 or 01 5252914.

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

It’s that time of year again, a flurry of activity between the Christmas parties and office lunches – it’s a really fun time to celebrate the year that’s been and to look forward to all that the new year holds in store.

It can also be the time where we encounter some tricky work issues, even for the most seasoned of managers. Take a few minutes to look through this best practice guide and help make sure your team and your company have a fun and enjoyable Christmas season, building on your sense of shared purpose and success and recognising the contribution and hard work from everyone.

Step 1: How can I prevent issues occurring?

  • Before a Company run or sponsored event, remind staff that they should abide by company policies – even when they are not on Company premises.
  • Ask managers to be vigilant at the event to ensure good conduct and behaviour is being observed.

Consider how you provide alcohol as an employer at a company event – there are options that can be helpful such as using a drinks voucher system instead of a free bar.

 Step 2: Do the company policies apply outside of work too?

Yes, your company policies extend to cover work related events. The most relevant policies that apply in these circumstances include: Social Media, Dignity at Work, Harassment and Bullying, Disciplinary and Grievance policies.

Step 3: What do we do if we receive a complaint?

Complaints should be dealt with in the normal manner through your grievance, disciplinary or other procedures. Dealing with any issues as quickly as possible should also help minimise potential issues.

Here are a few other important areas to think about this time of year.

Managing Public Holidays

1. Which employees are entitled to a public holiday?

 An employee’s entitlement is dependent on the nature of their contract:

  • All full time employees are entitled to the public holiday regardless of length of service
  • Part time/casual employees are only entitled where they have worked at least 40 hours in the five weeks ending on the day before the public holiday.
  • What payments are employees entitled to for a public holiday?

Employees who qualify for public holiday benefit will be entitled to one of the following:

  • 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

It is at the employer’s discretion to decide which benefit will apply.

2. How do I calculate public holiday pay?

  • Employees who work the public holiday or who are normally rostered to work on the day the public holiday falls, then they are entitled to the equivalent pay as the last working day before the public holiday falls.
  • Employees who are not normally required to work on the day the Public holiday falls are entitled to one fifth of their weekly rate of pay.

Payment for a Public Holiday is regular payment including regular shift allowances, but not variable pay such as overtime

3. Are employees entitled to payment for a public holiday if they are leaving employment?

If an employee has worked the week ending prior to the public holiday AND they have worked for the employer for 4 continuous weeks, then they are entitled to payment for that public holiday even though their employment has finished.

3. If the public holiday falls on a weekend what do we do?

If a Public holiday falls on a weekend it does not automatically move to the following Monday as a lot of people might assume. Employers have a number of options:

  • Move the public holiday to the following Monday: The most common approach is to move the public holiday to the next working day and give employees that day off.
  • Recognise the public holiday on the day it falls: If an organisation normally works on a public holiday, the organisation can provide the following to the employee for working that day: A paid day off within a month of the public holiday, OR a day’s pay in lieu, OR an additional day’s pay.

Employers must give employees at least 14 days’ notice of how they will operate and which benefit will apply to them.

Time Off During Adverse Weather

1. If an employee cannot come to work due to bad weather, do I have to pay them?

If the organisation is open for work and the employee cannot attend, then they are not entitled to payment for that day. You can give employees the option to take a holiday day as an alternative to unpaid leave, although you cannot force them to take a holiday. Having an ‘Exceptional leave policy’ in place is good practice to cover you in the event of these occurrences.

Employers can also look at alternatives for the employee, if appropriate:

  • Can they work from home?
  • Can they perform their duties on an alternative day?

2. If our place of work is closed due to bad weather, do I have to pay employee?

Yes, if the employee is available for work then they are entitled to pay for this day, even if the premises are unable to open.

If you are unsure about what arrangements to put in place in your own business, get in touch today with one of our HR experts, and we will guide you through these topical subjects so that you too have a happy and jolly Christmas season. Contact us on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie.

Voltedge Management

Giving Effective Feedback to Employees

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

One of the most important jobs a people manager has is to give effective feedback to their employees to enhance productivity and motivation. In this article we will give you tips to help bring your employee feedback to the next level.

1) Focus on the behaviour – NOT the person:
Can you remember a parent, friend or colleague saying, ‘You are always late’ or ‘you are hopeless at that’? Your immediate reaction is to say – ‘I’m NOT always late – yes I may be late occasionally but that’s unfair!’

Similarly, when dealing with employees you need to be precise and exact – don’t generalise!
So – instead of saying ‘you are always late for meetings’ – say ‘I notice that you arrived late into our meeting today – and also our previous operations meeting last week – I’m concerned that you will miss key details and/or the team miss out on information from you – can you make sure that you get there on time going forward- it’s important, let me know if there is any reason why you cant get there on time’.

2) Feedback is your opinion and perception:
Don’t use the term ‘We think/we feel’ – this is YOUR feedback and should be only yours. For example: You might say ‘The senior management team feel that you are not pulling your weight and you need to up your performance’. This may not be true, and/or fair, the feedback should be from the employee’s direct manager only.

Only use ‘I’ and give your feedback – not someone else’s.

3) The Feedback Sandwich

You will know of the concept – Say something nice – then the bad news – and then something nice again – the sandwich approach!

This sounds like it makes sense but be careful that the important constructive feedback doesn’t get lost between the nice words – employees like to hear the good stuff and may selectively ignore the bad unless you are very clear – so don’t be a coward- you will be doing the employee a favour if they need feedback on something important even if it isn’t easy to give.

4) Be positive too!
Even though we are saying that the feedback sandwich is not a good method, don’t forget to give the positive feedback too. Recognition is very important – however do remember to recognise people immediately – don’t just wait for a performance review session.

Employees who only ever receive positive feedback may not grow and develop. Always aim for stretch targets and praise to keep them striving for better results.

5) Follow up
Giving effective feedback loses huge benefits if you don’t follow up. Has the employee taken onboard your feedbvack and made changes? Are they being successful, or do you need to help them more? Have check in dates/times planned to ensure you are following through.

Reference: Nora St-Aubin

We have a team of trained and skilled investigators and consultants who have extensive experience in this area and would be happy to discuss any issue of concern with you. Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call Ingrid on 01 5252914.

Voltedge Management

Your HR Questions Answered

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively. Every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: We have a date booked for our company Christmas Party, what should we do to make sure employees know the behaviour that is expected of them without ruining the spirit of celebration this time of year?

A: The Christmas season is certainly a busy time for various office parties and Christmas lunches or dinners out, with work colleagues and it’s a time where employers want to extend their appreciation for the hard work and commitment of the employees during the year. But of course, these events can sometimes lead on to issues that can arise Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2011, or the company Dignity at Work Policy. Employers have significant responsibilities for their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing at company events even when they are outside of the workplace, – or when the employee acts without the employer’s knowledge or approval.

It can be a good time to remind employees of the company’s various policies around code of conduct and expected behaviours. So, without dampening the spirits of the Christmas season or being the party pooper, it is good practice to circulate a note to all employees as a reminder of the importance of a shared expectation of respect and dignity at work related events, and for individual managers to follow up on this in their team meetings.

The policies that are important to communicate are:

  • Dignity at Work Policy and Code of Ethics Statement
  • Social Media in the Workplace Policy
  • Disciplinary and Grievance Policy
  • Prevention of Bullying and Harassment Policy
  • Timekeeping and Attendance Policy

For further advice or information on company policies, please contract our Operations Manager Ingrid on 01 5252914 or email info@voltedge.ie and she’d be delighted to brief you further.

Voltedge Management

Your Questions Answered

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively. Every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: Can I force an employee to retire? 

A: Most employers have a set retirement date outlined. However, even this doesn’t guarantee that you can enforce retirement – recent cases – including a recent WRC adjudication, have paid out against employers who have tried to make employees retire against their will.

Q: So – what can I do to ensure that I don’t have a problem?          

A: There is no absolute guarantee, but we identify 4 tips below which will certainly help:

  • Retirement age: Have a set and agreed retirement age in place for employees, and ensure it is clearly stated in employment contracts and the Employee Handbook
  • Categories of Staff: Have a consistent retirement age – try to avoid different retirement ages for different positions/categories/grades as this will be seen as confusing
  • Consistent Practices: Practice what you preach! If you can stand over previous consistent retirements in recent years, and you have a precedent for retirement age, you will be in a much stronger position to continue to justify your existing retirement age
  • Retirement Policy: Have a clear Retirement Policy in place which justifies the Company retirement age, and clearly outlines the process for employees and management, including notification of retirement, an appeals mechanism etc.

We have a team of trained and skilled investigators and consultants who have extensive experience in this area and would be happy to discuss any issue of concern with you. Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call Ingrid on 01 5252914.

Voltedge Management

Your Questions Answered

Monday, September 17th, 2018

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively. Every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: When an employee is out on sick leave, do they accrue entitlement to annual leave and if so, for how long?

A: Yes an employee who is certified absent from work due to sick leave is entitled to accrue their entitlement annual leave, and carry that forward for a period of 15 months. This is a change to the Organisation of Working Time Act by the commencement of Section 86(1) of the Workplace Relations Act 2015? Section 86(1) amends Sections 19, 20 and 23 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. The effect of the amendments is as follows:

  • Employees will accrue statutory annual leave entitlement while on certified sick leave.
  • There will be an increase in the annual leave carryover period from 6 months to 15 months for those employees who could not, due to illness, take annual leave during the relevant leave year or during the normal carryover period of 6 months after the end of the leave year.
  • On termination of employment, payment in lieu of untaken annual leave will apply to leave which was untaken as a result of illness in circumstances where the employee leaves the employment within a period of 15 months following the end of the leave year during which the leave entitlement accrued.

Q: Can I give an employee on a fixed term contract an extension to that contract if I still need them to stay on for longer than I originally wanted without them becoming a permanent employee?

A: An employee who has been employed on 2 or more continuous fixed term contracts, will deem to be employed in an open-ended contract if the total duration of those contracts exceeds 4 years. If the employee is reemployed within a 3 month period between fixed term contracts, then they will be deemed to have continuous services.

You should note also that the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 applies to most employees on fixed-term contracts. However, it does not apply to agency workers placed by a temporary work agency at the disposition of a user enterprise or to apprentices, trainees and people in publicly-funded employment schemes such as Community Employment. The Act does apply to agency workers employed directly by an employment agency.

We have a team of trained and skilled investigators and consultants who have extensive experience in this area and would be happy to discuss any issue of concern with you. Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call Ingrid on 01 5252914.

Voltedge Management

Worker Wins Appeal Over Fixed-Term vs. Fixed-Purpose Contract

Monday, September 17th, 2018

The Labour Court has decided to over-turn and award the appeal of a clerical officer, working at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, who was wrongly assigned a contract of indefinite duration by the Work Relations Commission (WRC) earlier in the year.

The appeal has highlighted an important distinction between fixed-term and fixed-purpose contracts.

Fixed-Term

According to the SFA, a fixed term contract of employment is when the employee has a contract directly with an employer with the end outcome being one of the following; a specific end date, completion of a task or the occurrence of a specific event.

Fixed-Purpose

A fixed purpose contract is similar in that, the employee has a contract with the employer but is only employed to carry out a specific purpose, and once that specific job is completed, the contract will cease.

In this case, the WRC determined the worker had amassed a length of employment- through continuous fixed-term contracts, to be classed as a contract of indefinite duration as per the Fixed-Term Work Act 2003.

However, the Clerical Officer had been employed to work a fixed-purpose contract- to facilitate the implementation of a scheme, with no end date referred to, compared to a fixed-term contract. It was argued that the Fixed-Term Act – which covers the umbrella term of fixed/specified -purpose contract, does not mention anything to prevent a fixed-purpose contract from lasting more than the 4-year limit of a fixed-term contract. The Court stated that given the contract of employment specified a fixed-purpose, not a fixed-term, the employee did not fall under the 4-year fixed-term contract limit, and therefore, did not require a change of contract to indefinite duration.

This has raised concerns in relation to the interpretation of the fixed-term contract Law, in relation to specified-purpose contracts. This is an important benchmark – please contact Voltedge Management for further information and advice.

(FTD184 Labour Court Case)

For more details email info@voltedge.ie or call +353 1 5252914 and ask for Ingrid.

Your HR Questions Answered

Monday, October 16th, 2017

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively. Every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: Do I have to pay employees who didn’t come to work or even make an effort to work from home during the hurricane weather conditions, and what about the following day too if they say they can’t travel?

A: We are very fortunate here in Ireland that extreme weather conditions are an exception, however Monday 16th October 2017 will be remembered for the devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Ophelia and sadly the tragic loss of life. As an employer, you do have a duty of care to your staff to ensure they can attend for work safely. These current weather conditions are outside anyone’s control so it is very much up to each employer to decide how to deal with this issue, just like the snow storm we had in December 2010.

Best practice suggests you offer employees the opportunity to work from home, which doesn’t require them to make any journey out in these conditions for work reasons. The Taoiseach reaffirmed in a media briefing that all public service employees would be paid for Monday 16th as their services were closed across the country, and clarified that private sector companies could decide for themselves but referenced the provision for force majeure leave in such circumstances. Our advice is to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of your staff as a priority, and I’m sure the backlog of work will be worked through by your valued employees over the coming days.

Q: I need to ask an employee to change the work she does, as part of the business is diminishing and we need her to work more on reception as our reception has become much busier.  She currently is an Administrator and does a small amount of reception work. We will now need her to do more work on reception, and we know she will not want to do this. Can she request redundancy?

A: If this is a clear business need, you have no option but to change her job content. If the job is not changing significantly (i.e. less than 50%), then you should explain the rationale and help her understand that this is a minor change in her role, and you hope that she will be happy to understand this in line with the business needs.

If the position is changing radically (i.e. over 50%) you should inform her that her current position is no longer viable, and you are now offering her an alternative position as receptionist with some administration work. If she is not prepared to take this new position, then you should state that she will be able to take redundancy.

If you need advice on HR issues, drop us an email at info@voltedge.ie or contact the office for any additional information 01-5252914.

Your HR Questions Answered

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively and every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.

Q: We have just re-designed our new Employee Handbook and updated it. We have issued it to all our employees and one employee has said she is refusing to sign the form that states she has read, understands, and agrees to abide by the handbook – what should I do?

A: If you are not making any significant changes it is surprising that she is not agreeing to sign it. We would suggest that you sit down and talk to her and ask her why she has a problem with this. Does she have a genuine concern about a policy – if so, what is it – can you resolve the issue? Does she have some other grievance that she has not discussed?

If she is just being belligerent, we would suggest that you ask her politely one last time, and if she refuses, ask her to confirm verbally that she has read the handbook, then write a note to her personnel file stating this. However, we would advise that there must be an underlying issue, so suggest you keep talking to her to understand her issue(s).

Q: With Brexit looming, we want to check if all our sales employees have Irish or EU passports – we are a sales organisation and we frequently expect our sales guys to travel to UK, Europe and further so having a passport that is easy to get into countries with is essential. What should we do about this?

A: What about having a ‘Bring your passport to work’ day? Inform your employees that it is important to have details of their passports when they are travelling (in case they lose their passport, become ill or there are any problems abroad). If any employee is unhappy with doing this, talk to them and explain why it is important for you as the employer to have a copy of their passport. If they have a passport that may cause difficulties in the future after Brexit – at least you can then have a plan to deal with this.

If you need advice on HR issues, drop us an email at info@voltedge.ie or contact the office for any additional information 01-5252914.

Key Trends and Challenges for HR for 2017 and Beyond

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

As we embark on a new year we know that 2017 is going to be as interesting and exciting as 2016 was! In this article, we will provide you with an overview of the key trends and challenges in HR for 2017 and beyond, including highlighting some forthcoming legislative changes to watch out for.

National Minimum Wage Increase

With effect from 1 January 2017, the national minimum wage for an experienced adult employee was increased to from €9.15 to €9.25 per hour.

The national minimum wage applies to all employees, including full-time, part-time, temporary and casual employees, except the following categories of employees who are excluded from its provisions:

  • close relatives of the employer, such as a spouse, father, mother, son, daughter, brother and sister;
  • apprentices within the meaning of the Industrial Training Act 1967 and Labour Services Act 1987.

An experienced adult employee, for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act, is an employee who has an employment of any kind, in any 2 years, over the age of 18.

The following is a table detailing the national minimum wage for experienced adult employees and the sub-minimum rates for young people and certain trainees:

Category Minimum hourly rate of pay % of minimum wage
Experienced adult worker €9.25 100%
Aged under 18 €6.48 70%
First year from date of first employment aged over 18 €7.40 80%
Second year from date of first employment aged over 18 €8.33 90%
Employee aged over 18, in structured training during working hours:

·         1st one third period

·         2nd one third period

·         3rd one third period

 

 

€6.94

€7.40

€8.33

 

 

75%

80%

90%

Note: each one third period must be at least one month and no more than one year.

Employers need to be very aware of their obligation to pay the National Minimum Wage. During 2016 the Workplace Relations Commission investigated a large number of cases of underpayment of the National Minimum Wage. It is important to note that a claim under the National Minimum Wage Act can go back 6 years. It is also possible for the employee to bring claims under the Organisation of Working Time Act in respect of holiday pay and public holiday pay.

 Family Leave Bill

The government is drafting a Bill which will consolidate, with amendments, all existing family leave legislation including maternity, parental, adoptive and carers’ leave.

In early 2016, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform invited stakeholder groups to make submissions to participate in and respond to the framing of the proposed legislation. Given the timescales, the resulting legislation will potentially be introduced during 2017.

 Employee Share Schemes

Following the recent public consultation on the issue of share-based remuneration, Minister Michael Noonan announced, as part of Budget 2017, his intention to develop a new, SME-focused, share-based incentive scheme which would be introduced in Budget 2018. The introduction of any such incentive will be subject to it having received approval from the European Commission under state aid rules. Any resulting initiative will be welcome as employee share incentive schemes are an effective way of offering tax savings to employees, encouraging employee participation and retaining staff.

 Post-Brexit Opportunities and Challenges for Ireland

In a historic referendum on 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. Since then, many have been wondering what the impact of Brexit will be for Ireland. One of the major upsides for Ireland in 2017 will be the opportunity for jobs growth as more organisations look to set up European hubs in Ireland.

For Irish businesses that are exporting to the UK, exchange rate volatility will be their key immediate challenge. Since the Brexit referendum result Sterling has fallen by 18% against the Euro. This fall in Sterling will increase the cost of Irish exports to the UK and will mean increased competition in the form of British imports.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on the 25th May 2018, replacing the existing data protection framework under the EU Data Protection Directive. The GDPR introduces significant changes to European data protection law, in particular severe financial penalties for non-compliance. It is important that companies start preparing in 2017 for the introduction of these new rules. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has issued useful guidance on how to prepare for the GDPR and the document can be viewed here.

Get advice on Employment & Labour Laws in Ireland. Contact us now at 01-5252914 for any advice.

Margaret McCarthy, HR Consultant