Seven issues employers will need to know in 2016
The last 12 to 18 months has been a whirlwind for employers in Ireland, with change in respect of employment law and employment rights over this period on a scale not seen since the influx of employment legislation between 1997 and 2003.
• National Minimum Wage: it was announced in the Budget that the proposed increase of the national minimum wage from the Low Pay Commission will be formally introduced on January 1, 2016. Employers are advised to review and revise their budgets for the new calendar year, particularly in light of the changes to PRSI that will also be introduced.
• Workplace Relations Reform: any employer that has been faced with an employment tribunal hearing in the past may well be aware of how cumbersome the process was. This was due to fact that there were four different tribunal bodies (namely the LRC, EAT, Equality Tribunal, and Labour Court) and one employee issue could very well result in an employer having to attend four separate tribunals. However, a new streamlined system was introduced on October 1 this year whereby all claims will initially be heard at the new Workplace Relations Commission with all appeals then moving to the Labour Court.
• Workplace Inspections: Under the Workplace Relations reform, workplace inspections previously carried out by NERA will now be conducted by the WRC. Importantly, the WRC Inspectors now have the authority to issue employers with fixed payment notices of up to €2,000 should that employer have failed to comply with rules in respect of collective redundancy consultation, the issuing of payslips to employees, or the issuing to an employee of a statement of their average hourly pay in accordance with minimum wage rules.
• Annual Leave Accrual: New rules were introduced on August 1 last whereby employees will now accrue annual leave whilst on a period of certified sick leave. Given the increase to the national minimum wage, this development will also carry any additional cost for employers.
• Collective Bargaining: Collective bargaining legislation was introduced on 01st August 2015 which provides employees with additional bargaining rights, particularly in respect of the lodging and enforceability of trade dispute claims.
• JLCs/EROs/REAs: Whilst this may not apply to all employers, those employers in industries previously governed by EROs or REAs are advised to keep abreast of changes in this area. Recent legislation has meant that new EROs and REAs can now be drafted and introduced. Indeed, new EROs have been in effect in the Security and Contract Cleaning industries since 01st October 2015 and it has been reported that the Agricultural industry is quite advanced in negotiations for an ERO in that industry also.
• Travel Time as Working Time: A recent decision from the Court of Justice of the European Union found that where an employee does not work from a central office (ie, field-based staff) that their commute to their first appointment and their commute home from their last appointment ought to be deemed 'working time'. While this decision applies automatically in the public sector, it is as yet unclear how the Irish tribunals will apply this decision to employers in the private sector in light of current Irish legislation.
Alan Price is managing director of Peninsula Ireland, specialists in Employment Law & HR Services