With the October Bank Holiday weekend fast approaching we thought you might find some information on Public Holidays and the relevant employer obligations/responsibilities around pay useful! There are nine Public Holidays in Ireland each year - they are: •New Year's Day (1 January) •St. Patrick's Day (17 March) •Easter Monday (Changes every year) •The first Monday in May, June & August •The last Monday in October •Christmas Day (25 December) •St. Stephen's Day (26 December) Here is a breakdown of the statutory outline of Public Holiday Entitlements under Irish Employment Legislation: Did you know that employees scheduled to work on a Public Holiday are entitled to an additional day's pay for the day? For instance, let's take “Employee A” as an example – “Employee A” works on the day the Public Holiday falls - let's say “Employee A” is a retail store employee and is required to work on St. Stephen's day as it is the first day of the store's seasonal sale - On a normal working day “Employee A” earns €100. This means that “Employee A” is entitled to receive the usual €100 for the hours worked on the Public Holiday as well as an additional €100 - So “Employee A” receives €200 for working on the Public Holiday. If there is any ambiguity in ascertaining what an additional day's pay should equal the employer should look at the last day worked prior to the Public Holiday. “Employee B” represents an employee who is normally scheduled to work on a day that a Public Holiday falls but is not required to work on that day (for example - an administrative assistant in a bank who typically works 09:00-17:00 Monday – Friday, who is not required to work on Easter Monday). “Employee B” should receive their normal day's pay for that day as well as not being required to work on the Public Holiday. On a normal working day “Employee B” receives €200. When a Public Holiday falls “Employee B” will not be required to work on this day as the business is closed. “Employee B” will still receive their normal day’s pay. The one that can cause the most confusion is the case of “Employee C” – Employees who are not normally scheduled to work on the Public Holiday will receive one-fifth of their normal weekly pay for the day. “Employee C”, for instance, works Wednesday – Friday and receives €100 per day in remuneration. If a Public Holiday falls on a Tuesday, even though “Employee C” never works that day he or she still has the right to benefit from the Public Holiday in some way. “Employee C” is still entitled to be paid a certain amount as a benefit for the Public Holiday (one-fifth of their normal weekly pay). If this employee earns €300 per three day week (Wednesday-Friday) they are entitled to earn an additional €60 during a week where a Public Holiday falls on a Monday or Tuesday. The above rules will apply for all Public Holidays.
Proper conduct and professional behaviour in the workplace is essential to ensure the efficient operation of a Company on a daily basis. Employers need to define unacceptable conduct so that employees can differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour/actions.
The repercussions for breach of the behavioural policies or rules within an organisation should be clarified for all employees as it is very important to make them aware that their actions can lead to the disciplinary procedures being invoked. In severe cases misconduct in the workplace can lead to dismissal. There are two levels of misconduct – minor and gross. Minor instances of misconduct should initially result in informal advice being given by the Manager without having to resort to disciplinary action – if this approach proves unsuccessful then leaning on the formal disciplinary procedure may be required.
- Examples of minor misconduct include:
- Persistent lateness or absenteeism
- Unsatisfactory standards of work or poor productivity
- Disruption of other employees
- Abusive language
- Unauthorised use of property or negligent damage/loss of property
- Failure to abide by Company dress code or Health and Safety procedures
- Sleeping while on duty
- Sexual harassment
- Making false allegations of personal injury/accidents in the workplace
- Gross indecent or immoral behaviour, deliberate discrimination or serious acts of harassment
- Deliberate fraud – e.g. falsification of records in respect of the individual or another employee or deliberate misrepresentation
- Smoking in breach of the Company policy
- Endangering others through fighting/physical assault or abuse
- Incapacity at work due to the use of intoxicants or drugs
- Possession, supply or use of illicit drugs
- Deliberate failure to carry out instructions, deliberate damage to Company policy/deliberate poor work performance
- Breach of code of professional conduct
- Providing confidential Company information to competitors or unauthorised bodies
- Rudeness towards clients and objectionable behaviour – neglect of duties that could result in harm to clients
- The taking of any property/money owned by colleagues or the Company without authorisation
- Arriving to work under the influence of alcohol where carrying out duties may be hindered
- Unauthorised use of Company property, facilities, or resources. Selling, attempting to sell or promoting the sale of non-Company merchandise while on Company premises.
Did you know that all hours worked by any employee are taken into account when calculating Annual Leave?
This will include any hours worked in addition to normal working hours.
Further to this there are additional leave periods that will be included when calculating Annual Leave for an employee:
- Maternity Leave
- Public Holidays
- Adoptive leave
- Parental Leave
- The first 13 weeks of Carers leave
- Force Majeure Leave
These are protected leave periods and therefore Employees continue to accrue Annual Leave while on any of the above listed leaves.
Leave that is not included when calculating Annual Leave for an employee:
- Sick Leave
- Occupational Injury (sick leave as a result of such injury)
- Temporary Lay-off
- Career Break
In September 2013 the legal opinion of the European Court of Justice was that an Irish teacher (Ms. Z), whose child was born through surrogacy, did not have an automatic right to either paid Adoptive Leave or Maternity Leave from her employment.
On 18th March 2014 a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling, that referred to the mother who did not give birth to the child as the “commissioning mother”, upheld this opinion. The ruling stressed that it is the birth mother who should benefit from Maternity Leave even where she does not keep the baby after giving birth and even in cases where the mother who takes on the responsibility of the child after birth is the biological mother. The reason for this is to improve the health and safety of pregnant workers and and those who have recently given birth.
Ms. Z and her husband are the baby’s full genetic parents. When Ms. Z’s application for paid Adoptive Leave was denied she brought a complaint to the Equality Tribunal. The woman, who has no uterus as a result of a rare medical condition, claimed that she was discriminated against on the grounds of sex, family status and disability.
The woman was told by her employer that she could take unpaid Parental Leave instead of the requested Adoptive Leave; however, as the child was genetically hers and her name was on the American birth certificate, Ms. Z felt that she was being treated unfairly.The surrogacy scenario can be a challenging one for all concerned and blurred lines surrounding what mothers are entitled to in the workplace just adds to the complexity of the situation.
The Equality Tribunal referred the case to the ECJ and the Court ruled yesterday that mothers like Ms. Z do not have any automatic right to Adoptive Leave or Maternity Leave.
In September 2013, the legal opinion of the Advocate General stated that Ms. Z’s differential treatment was not based on sex, family status or disability, as claimed, but instead on the “refusal of national authorities to equate her situation with that of either a woman who has given birth or an adoptive mother”.
The Court ruled that Ms. Z did not fall within the scope of the Pregnant Worker’s Directive as the Directive in question presupposes that the worker has been pregnant or has given birth to a child. The claim of discrimination on the grounds of sex failed as fathers in this situation are also denied leave. The claim of discrimination on the grounds of disability also failed as, the judgement stated that, while “a woman’s inability to bear her own child may be a source of great suffering” it does not amount to ‘disability’. The concept of ‘disability’ within the EU Employment Equality Framework Directive “presupposes that the limitation, from which the person suffers, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder that person’s full and effective participation in professional life on an equal basis with other workers”.
The recent revelation, that Irish women who have babies through surrogacy arrangements are not afforded the same rights as mothers who have adopted or given birth to their babies, has highlighted the uncertainties/complexities surrounding the issue of surrogacy in both Irish and EU law.
Surrogacy is becoming a more frequent option for women; however, legislation in Ireland has not kept up with this change.
The ECJ stated that member states are “free to apply more favourable rules for commissioning mothers” and paid leave for mothers, who have children through surrogacy arrangements, is being legislated for in The United Kingdom.
On 30th January 2014, Justice Minister Alan Shatter published the General Scheme of Children and Family Relationships Bill for consultation. According to Minister Shatter, the draft bill ‘seeks to provide legal clarity on the parentage of children born through assisted human reproduction and surrogacy’.
Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) held a secret ballot of its members at Liebherr Container Cranes in Killarney yesterday, 14th January 2014. SIPTU members voted to reject Labour Court proposals geared at resolving a long-term pay increase dispute with the Company dating back to 2009. Liebherr Container Cranes Ltd., a member of the large family-owned German Company, Liebherr Group, was established in Killarney in 1958 and has been a significant direct and indirect employer in the area in recent years. The Company is one of the largest firms in Kerry and one of the largest of its kind in the country. The German company has warned that its commitment to the plant in Killarney has been weakened in recent months as a result of the on-going pay issues and the industrial action which forced them to send work from Killarney to Germany. Fears are now growing for jobs at the Company as Management admit to reviewing its operations in the region. Liebherr stated that a small number of employees have seriously compromised its future in Killarney. Based on the details of Towards 2016 Review and Transitional Arrangement, an agreement drawn up by the Company, a 2.5% pay increase was due to be implemented for employees in January 2009. The Company did not pay the expected increase and argued that payment would severely impact its competitiveness and limit its ability to preserve its headcount numbers in a time of economic hardship. The Company proposed to pay the increase due in three distinct phases beginning in 2012 in return for a number of concessions including cost-offsetting measures. Union members and the Company were unable to resolve the dispute at local level and it became the subject of a Conciliation Conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Agreement was not reached at this stage and, on the 28th January 2011, the pay dispute was referred to the Labour Court. A Labour Court hearing was scheduled for, and took place on, the 2nd May 2012. The Labour Court considered the submissions of all parties and a decision was made that further engagement was required if the claim was to be resolved before the Court. The Court recommended that the discussions/negotiations were to be facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission. As a result of the unresolved pay dispute, industrial action was served by SIPTU in November 2013. Workers at the plant implemented a ban on overtime and undertook a one-day work stoppage late in November. All industrial action was suspended on 28th November when members of the union accepted an invitation to attend a hearing of the Labour Court on 4th December 2013. In December 2013, the Labour Court recommended that the firm award the disputed 2.5% increase backdated almost two full years to its workers. The Court provided a list of recommendations to both sides. Liebherr said that, while the industrial action and the pay award had increased its cost base, they accepted the recommendation. SIPTU workers at the plant, however, voted on the 14th January 2014 to reject the Labour Court proposals. The union was said to be dissatisfied with the proposal and wanted the 2.5% wage increase to be implemented on an unconditional basis.
There is no single fixed/mandatory retirement age (age at which you must retire) for employees in Ireland. Typically, an employee’s retirement age is set out in their Contract of Employment and this can vary from one company/industry to the next. Alternatively, precedent/established custom and practice within the Company can determine the retirement age of its employees. E.G: if Mary was forced to retire at the age of 62 then Jack should also have to retire upon reaching the same age (assuming the circumstances are the same and that Mary was not ill, for instance).
Contracts provided by employers to their employees usually incorporate a mandatory retirement age (Normal Retirement Date/NRD). This tends to make it compulsory for the employee to retire at a certain age, usually this is somewhere between the ages of 60 and 65. Most contracts also include some sort of provision for early retirement on ill-health grounds etc.
In certain occupations there is a state-imposed compulsory retirement age. This arises for members of An Garda Síochána and members of the Defence Forces, for instance. Gardaí are forced to retire from their roles by the age of 60.
General Practitioners are obliged to retire from the General Medical Services scheme when they reach the age of 70. They may, however, continue to practice privately if they are approved by the Medical Council – the Medical Council will ensure that they meet their fitness to practice criteria.
There is no set retirement age when a person is self-employed, similarly, unless specifically set out in the Company’s Articles of Association, Company Directors are not usually bound by a maximum working age either.
Interestingly, employers are allowed to set minimum recruitment ages provided that the minimum age is 18 or under.
The most common company retirement age is 65 and, until recently, people went straight from receiving their salary from the company to receiving a pension from the State (provided they paid enough PRSI contributions during their working life). The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011, however, legislated for certain changes to the pensions system in Ireland effective from 1st January 2014. The State Pension (Transition) has been discontinued for new claimants from 1st January 2014. As a result, the State Pension minimum age has been increased to 66 years for all. It will increase to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 years in 2028.
What this means is that:
- If a person was born between 1st January 1949 and 31st December 1954 inclusive, the minimum qualifying State Pension age will be 66 (rather than 65).
- If a person was born between 1st January 1955 and 31st December 1960 inclusive, the minimum qualifying State Pension age will be 67.
- If a person was born on or after 1st January 1961 the minimum qualifying State Pension age will be 68.
When asked, in 2011, about the changes to the State Pension the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, said:
“Given the changes to State pension age and the other proposals in the Framework, both employees and employers must be encouraged to change their attitudes to working longer. In the workplace employers must seek to retain older employees and create working conditions which will make working longer both attractive and feasible for the older worker. Where this is not possible and people leave paid employment before State pension age they will be entitled to apply for another social welfare payment until they become eligible for a State pension”.
The Transition Pension will not be payable to anyone who reaches 65 years of age after 1st January 2014. Instead, individuals will have to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance and should be entitled to receive this payment until they become eligible for the State pension. Jobseeker’s Allowance is considerably less per week than the pension is (€188 compared to €230.30).
Employees due to retire from their jobs upon reaching the age of 65 may not be able to afford to do so for another year unless they are able to access savings, draw down a private pension or unless their employer graciously extends the retirement age. To date there is no obligation on employers to increase the retirement age or to somehow bridge the gap financially however, employers nationwide may find themselves receiving requests to increase the retirement age for employees.
Please note that if an employer wishes to increase the contracted retirement age he or she is still obliged to consult the employee in relation to same as written consent is required to change the terms and conditions of employment.
No matter how big or how small your company may be – or whether your employees are part-time, seasonal or fixed-term - every Irish employer is obliged to enter into a contract with a PRSA provider and to provide access to at least one standard PRSA for all ‘excluded employees’.What are ‘excluded employees’? Employees are considered to be ‘excluded employees’ if:
- their employer does not offer a pension scheme, or
- they are included in a pension scheme for death-in-service benefits only, or
- they are not eligible to join the company’s pension scheme or will not become eligible to join the pension scheme within six months from the date they began working there, or
- they are included in a pension scheme that does not permit the payment of additional voluntary contributions (AVCs).
- enter into a contract with a PRSA provider (there is no charge for doing this)
- provide employees with access to a Standard PRSA
- allow reasonable paid leave of absence, subject to work requirements, so that excluded employees can set up a Standard PRSA
- make deductions from payroll if required
- advise employees in writing (normally on their payslip) at least once a month of their total contribution, including employer’s contribution, if any.
- You’re not obliged to give any advice to employees in relation to PRSAs, but you must allow your PRSA provider or intermediary reasonable access to your employees to brief them on PRSAs.
- You don’t have to contribute to PRSAs on behalf of your employees, but if you decide to do so, your contributions must be paid to the PRSA provider within 21 days of the end of the month in which the employer contributions are due. And please note that you cannot make any deductions from this payment.
- You are not responsible for the investment performance of PRSAs
IFG have many years of experience of providing Pension Scheme Design & Risk Advisory services to Irish companies. They would be delighted to answer any and all of your pension queries if you would like to find out more www.ifg.ie .
If a salary reduction is imposed without consultation or employee agreement, an employee now only has three (rather than four) potential legal opportunities to seek redress from his or her employer. If an employee’s wages are cut his or her first option is to claim Constructive Dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997-2007. Constructive Dismissal is the term used when an employee terminates his or her employment based on the conduct of the employer. In this instance, the employee must be able to prove that their position became unsustainable as a direct result of the involuntary reduction in pay. Secondly, where an employee’s salary is reduced, he or she has the opportunity to bring a trade dispute under the Industrial Relations Acts. The Industrial Relations Acts deal with disputes between employers and workers that are connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms and conditions of or affecting the employment, of any person. Thirdly, if an employer cuts an employee’s pay, the employee could claim that their contract has been breached. Defending this could prove very costly for the employer. Furthermore, an injunction may be granted to prevent the contract breach/reinstate the original salary. In the past employees whose wages were cut without prior consent had a fourth option. They had the opportunity to take a case (and were likely to succeed) under the Payment of Wages Act 1991. Claims in relation to a reduction in wages, however, may no longer be successful if taken under this Act as a result of a recent Employment Appeals Tribunal determination. The specific EAT case referenced here is an appeal of a Right’s Commissioner decision in the case of Santry Sports Clinic v 5 employees. The employees in the aforementioned case were claiming for an 8% reduction in their pay that was imposed between February and March 2010. Santry Sports Clinic stated that the reduction was essential. According to the employer, all employees received letters detailing the 8% reduction in advance and, while only 30% of employees agreed to the reduction via return letters, no one officially objected or stated that they would not accept the pay cut and so it was implemented as planned. The Employment Appeals Tribunal considered all evidence and representations made at the hearing as well as all other submissions made. The Tribunal noted the High Court decision in the case of Michael McKenzie and others and Ireland and the Attorney General and the Minister for Defence Rec. No. 2009. 5651JR. In paragraph 5.8 of this decision the Judge stated that “the Payment of Wages Act has no application to reductions as distinct from ‘deductions’.” The Tribunal followed the High Court decision on a point of law and, therefore, the appeal was successful and the decision of the Rights Commissioner was entirely overturned in the case of Santry Sports Clinic v 5 employees. This case brought to light the fact that the Payment of Wages Act 1991 refers to “deductions” as opposed to “reductions” and, as a consequence, employees whose wages are reduced without prior consent are now unlikely to succeed if they opt to take a case against their employer under the Payment of Wages Act 1991. This is particularly significant for claims that are currently being processed by the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Employers need to remember that, although this option has essentially been closed off for employees as a result of the above-mentioned High Court decision and the EAT case, they still have several avenues open to them if they wish to take a claim where a reduction of wages has been imposed by the employer without prior consent.
There are several types of leave that an employee may be entitled to. Some forms of leave are statutory entitlements and some other forms are not. Maternity Leave, for instance, must be given to employees when they are pregnant. Some forms of leave are paid and others are not. This can depend on statutory obligations and on the terms and conditions set out in the Contract of Employment. Annual Leave is a statutory entitlement and it must be paid by the employer. Sick Leave, however, is not always paid by the employer (this depends on individual company policies). Force Majeure Leave is less commonly discussed. The purpose of Force Majeure Leave is to provide limited, paid leave to enable an employee to deal with family emergencies resulting from injury or illness of a close family member. Force Majeure Leave applies where the immediate presence of the employee is urgent and indispensable (essential). A close family member is defined as one of the following:
- A child or adopted child of the employee
- The husband/wife/partner (same or opposite sex) of the employee
- A parent/grandparent of the employee
- A brother/sister of the employee
- A person to whom the employee has a duty of care (where he or she is acting in loco parentis)
- A person in a relationship of domestic dependency with the employee
- Persons of any other class (if any) as may be prescribed
Many employers have experienced theft by an employee in the workplace and, consequently, need to put certain measures in place in order to protect the profits of the company. It is the policy of some companies to search employees’ personal belongings when they are leaving the work premises. Employers can also reserve the right to search employee lockers and vehicles if this is agreed with the employee in advance. If the employer wishes to have the option to carry out personal searches then it is crucial that all details surrounding these searches are clearly communicated to the employees in the contract of employment. Employees sign this contract and by doing so agree to the policies and procedures contained therein. If an employer reserves the right to search an employee’s belongings then he or she must do so in a dignified manner – giving the employee appropriate levels of privacy. There are several significant procedures to observe when performing a personal search. The individual carrying out the search should be in a management position and, in the interest of clarity; the employees should be made aware in advance who it will be. The location of the search is also something that should be considered very carefully – it is important to maintain consistency and to carry out searches in an area that offers privacy to the employee involved. Employees should be notified of the location of the search and, ideally, it should be out of the view of customers and other employees. The shop floor is not appropriate search setting – the canteen is not suitable either. Ideally the area should be covered by CCTV in order to prevent a “he said she said” situation from arising. If this is not possible then a witness should be present so that this scenario is avoided. Either way discretion is of cardinal importance. As is procedure with airline security screening a male should search a male and a female should search a female, although, as the searches should not involve body contact this is less of a priority. It is essential that the employee is asked to open his or her bag, for instance, and that the person performing the search doesn’t breach privacy by putting their hands into the employee’s bag or on the employee’s person. Employees should be asked politely to remove any suspicious items from their bag for further inspection – the item/items should be placed on a clear surface in order to ensure that there is no confusion over what was actually in the bag. The searching employee (management/security where possible) should never assume that an item has not been paid for. If the item in question was from the store then the employee should be asked to produce a receipt for same. Further action can be taken if the employee cannot furnish proof of purchase. When an employee purchases an item in the store during the working day it is good practice for companies to put in place a policy where the bag is sealed and the receipt is attached to the bag. This removes any ambiguity. Some companies will carry out spot checks on employee belongings rather than checking them on a daily basis – it is vital to be fair and to ensure that the same employees are not targeted all the time. Not following appropriate procedures can lead to employees being awarded large sums of money.