Posts Tagged ‘minimum wage’

HR & Employment Law – Round Up 2020 and a Look Ahead to 2021

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

As 2020 draws to a close and we take time to look back and reflect on what has happened this year, we find ourselves continuing to acknowledge what an unprecedented year it has been for us all. COVID-19 has touched every employer in some way or another and while the pandemic has certainly impacted and changed the world of work, our employment laws, codes of practices and guidelines largely remain the same.

 COVID-19 – HR & employment practices issues

Health & Safety

COVID-19 is predominantly a health & safety issue from a work perspective and employers have a duty of care for all employees under H&S legalisation.   While there are no new specific employment regulations related to COVID-19 in place, employers are required to comply with all existing H&S legislation and they must also ensure they comply with the range of obligations and requirements set out in the government’s living document – The Work Safely Protocol (the Protocol), originally issued in May 2020 and updated in November 2020.

The Protocol and the HSA provide various checklists to support employers in providing a safe working environment both onsite and remotely during COVID-19.  Despite the good news on impending vaccines, we expect that COVID-19 will be with us for a significant part of 2021 and employers will still need to continue to review and follow the Protocol for some time yet.

 Layoff, Short time & Redundancy

During 2020, unfortunately many employers were forced to lay off employees or reduce working hours as a result of COVID-19.  Normally, employees on lay off or on short-time hours can claim redundancy from an employer after 4 weeks or more, or 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks. If employees were put on lay off or short-time hours because of COVID-19, their right to claim redundancy has been temporarily suspended.

This rule became effective under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act from 13 March 2020 and has been extended up until 31 March 2021. Employers are reminded that when selecting employees for lay off or short time working, they should apply the same criteria for selection as for redundancy. The criteria should be reasonable and applied fairly.

While it is expected that many businesses will recover post pandemic, it is anticipated that there will likely be some level of redundancies once the right to claim redundancy has been lifted.  It is important to note that where a business needs to restructure due to COVID-19 and where it may result in potential redundancies, then all the normal redundancy procedures including consultation and selection must be followed.

Working from Home – Ireland & Abroad

Working from Home

Employers reminded that under H&S legalisation, they have a duty of care for all employees even when they are working remotely.   For so many businesses, remote working became a forced necessity rather than a choice.  Many of the arrangements were put in place literally overnight with little time for planning and evaluating risks and supports needed for both the employer and employees.

The updated version of the Protocol guides that  “All staff should continue to work from home to the greatest extent possible” and that employers should develop and consult on working from home policies in conjunction with workers. Employers should familiarise themselves with their H&S obligations which include carrying out risk assessments, provision of equipment etc.

As we move into 2021, it is clear that many organisations will continue to either work remotely in the short term or engage in “blended” working models for the future. In addition to their H&S obligations, employers will need to develop more detailed Working From Home Policies which set out criteria for eligibility,  H&S guidelines for working remotely and also address issues such as Data Protection, Well-Being and Recording of Working Time & Rest breaks.

Engaging with employees at an early stage either through discussion or employee survey would be a great way to address any concerns and to develop a policy that meets both the individual and business needs.

Working from Home – Abroad

In some cases, non-Irish employees chose to return to their home countries and are continuing to work remotely overseas.  It is really important that employers are fully aware of the implications of continuing to permit these arrangements and the potential risks associated with the employee acquiring employment rights in another jurisdiction or giving rise to a tax liability for either the employee and employer in another country.

While most jurisdictions have a taken a flexible and pragmatic approach to these type of arrangements during 2020, it is imperative that employers have a clear understanding of the potential risks that may arise should they continue into 2021.

The right to disconnect

Increasingly, technology has blurred the lines between work and personal life. For many, home working and COVID-19 restrictions has resulted in significantly increased “work-life blur” and is having a significant mental and physical health impact. Unlike some other European countries, there is currently no specific legislation in Ireland that explicitly refers to the right to disconnect.

Between 2016 and 2018, France, Belgium and Spain have all introduced “right to disconnect” legislation.  While it remains to be seen if Ireland follows the lead of other countries and addresses this, some larger organisations are already developing policies that set guidelines and boundaries for their employees.

Retirement Ages & Pensions

The qualifying age for the state pension became a key election issue in February 2020.  As a result of significant political negotiations, the qualifying age for state pension will remain at 66 years for now. While the public sector pension age is now 70, there is still no fixed retirement age in the private sector and many employers continue to face legal challenges as their employees push to work longer.   Employers can establish a mandatory retirement age for employees, but such ages must be capable of being reasonably and objectively justified if they are challenged by employees as being discriminatory on grounds of age.

While a national auto-enrolment occupational pension scheme has been promised for several years, no further progress has been made on this and the pandemic has seen the matter pushed back again.

Family Leave & Flexible Working

Parental Leave increased from 22 week up to 26 weeks with effect from 1 September 2020.  Parental leave entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children. Employees can take up to 26 weeks’ parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday. In general, employees must have been working for an employer for at least a year to get the full amount of parental leave and must give at least 6 weeks’ notice before taking parental leave.

 Parent’s Leave

The current 2 weeks’ parent’s leave is set to increase to 5 weeks for each parent with effect from 1st April 2021.  Parents will be able to take this leave during the first 2 years of their child’s life (or 2 years from adoption).

Flexible Working

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the Department of Justice launched a public consultation in January 2020 on flexible working, which aims to help the government address and consider a number of issues relating to flexible working.  While remote working has been a dominant topic during 2020, there is still the broader topic of flexible working to contend with.

The EU Work Life Balance Directive extends the right to request flexible working arrangements to carers and working parents of children up to eight years old. This includes the right to request reduced working hours, flexible working hours and remote working options.  Under the EU Directive, the statutory right to request flexible working will come into effect no later than August 2022.

Illness Benefit & Statutory Sick Pay

Employees who have been told to self-isolate or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may claim COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit.   The benefit can be claimed from the first day of isolation or a COVID-19 diagnosis and will be paid for a maximum of 2 weeks where an employee is required to self-isolate and for up to a maximum of 10 weeks where an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and unable to work as a result. This benefit is planned to be in place up until March 2021.

As part of Budget 2021, it was announced that the number of waiting days for the standard Illness Benefit will be reduced from 6 days to 3 days on new claims (from the end of February 2021).

Ireland is one of only a small number of European countries in which there is no legal obligation on employers to provide for sick pay. The Government has recently launched a consultation process on the provision of a Statutory Sick Pay Scheme with a view to it being introduced in late 2021.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

It had been expected that the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting would come into law during 2020. However, with the focus on other priorities such as COVID-19, progress on the legislation has been slow.  The European Commission announced a five-year strategy in March 2020 that includes legislative proposals on pay transparency.

Binding measures aimed at increasing pay transparency and providing enforcement mechanisms are due to be published by the end of the year. While we do not yet know what form the EU measures will take, the announcement should re-prioritise the Bill here and we would expect to see this back on the agenda during 2021.

Minimum Wage

Since 1 February 2020, the national minimum wage is €10.10 per hour. The Government has approved increasing the national minimum wage by 10 cent per hour, from €10.10 to €10.20 from 1 January 2021.

Liz O’Donovan, Senior HR Consultant

Legal updates – Minimum Wage

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

With effect from 1st January 2018 there is a new Minimum Wage. The National Minimum Wage Order 2017 means the minimum hourly rate for an audit has increased by 3.2% to €9.55 per hour.

Overall, it means that the minimum wage in Ireland has increased by 10.5% since 2015 – when the minimum wage was €8.65 per hour and comes on foot of the recommendations from the Low Pay Commission (a statutory body set up in 2015 to make recommendations on the rate of the minimum wage annually).

It is estimated that about 10% of employees in Ireland are on the minimum wage (about 155,000 people).
Minimum Wage

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

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

Employment Law Update 2016

Monday, December 5th, 2016

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.

Paternity Leave

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