The Terms of Employment (Information) Act, 1994 provides that an employer is obliged to provide an employee with a statement in writing no later than two months after the commencement of employment containing certain information, such as place of work, the title of the job, the nature of work, the date of commencement of the contract of employment, terms and conditions in relation to the hours of work, terms and conditions in relation to paid leave, the period of notice which the employer is required to give and entitled to receive, etc.
In the case of temporary contracts, the expected duration or in the case of a fixed term contract, the date in which the contract expires must also be included.
Any changes later must be confirmed in writing with the employee.
As an employer, you are required to keep certain records relating to your employees.
This is to show that you are compliant with employment legislation.
Health and Safety in the Workplace
Under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, employers have a duty to ensure the employee’s safety, health and welfare at work, as far as reasonably practicable.
In order to prevent workplace injuries and ill-health, an employer is required, among other things, to provide and maintain a safe workplace, machinery and equipment.
Employers are obliged to report any accident that results in an employee missing three consecutive days at work (not including the day of the accident) to the Health and Safety Authority.
Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997
Some of the points the said Act outlines are as follows:
- A maximum average net working time of 48 hours.
- A daily rest break of 11 consecutive hours.
- Rest breaks while at work.
- A weekly rest break of 24 consecutive hours.
- A maximum average of night working of eight hours.
The 48-hour net maximum working week can be averaged according to a number of rules. There is also an exemption in respect to work which is seasonal in its nature and this can be averaged over six months.
Unfair Dismissal Law
The Unfair Dismissals Act, 1997 to 2001, is based on two fundamental principles.
- Substantial grounds must exist to justify the termination of employment.
- Fair procedures must be followed in effecting the termination.
All employees who have one year’s continuous service with the employer, and who have not reached normal retirement age for employment, are included under this Act. This is an extremely contentious area, and one which employers should handle with extreme care.
The dismissal is deemed not to be unfair if it is resulted wholly or mainly from the redundancy of an employee.
Strict adherence to definition of redundancy is required from employers, if an employee is held to be dismissed by reason of redundancy.
Fixed Term Workers and Part Time Workers
A fixed term worker is engaged to carry out a specific task with a defined start and end date.
There are restrictions on the period of time the employer can continue an employee on fixed term contracts.
A part-time employee is any employee who works less than a full-time employee doing comparable work.
Employers should be conscious of the fact that, in general terms, part-time employees are afforded the same protections as full-time employees.
The Employment Equality Acts, 1998 and 2004, outlaw discrimination on nine grounds.
The grounds are gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race/colour/nationality/ethic or national origins and membership of the traveller community.
The Act prohibits discrimination in employment and in particular, access to employment, conditions of employment, training or experience for or in relation to employment promotion or re-grading or classification or of posts.
Minimum notice periods for termination of employment apply to employees.
Minimum notice periods which employers must give to employees on termination depend on whether or not a contract of employment exists.
In the event that a contract of employment does not exist, the length of the period of notice depends on the length of service. Should an employer fail to provide the statutory notice period, they would be obliged to pay that employer for that period.
Dignity at Work/Bullying
Each employer must take measures to ensure that employees are not subject to verbal or physical bullying or harassment from their bosses, co-workers or customers.
There is an increasing number of cases resulting from stress as a result of bullying.
Every employer should ensure that any complaint is dealt with seriously and in a manner that does not add to the issues experienced by the employee.
Each employer should take active steps to discharge their obligation and fulfil their duty of care in this matter.
It is important that an employer has a proper policy drawn up in relation to bullying the workplace.
Karen Walsh, from a farming background, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners,
Solicitors, 17, South Mall, Cork
(021-4270200), and author of ‘Farming and the Law’. Walsh & Partners also specialises in personal injury claims, conveyancing,
probate and family law.