Need to know: hot topics in HR and pensions for 2019
Gender Fluidity: Gender-neutral bathrooms at work may not yet be in the 2019 plans for all employers, but as gender diversity becomes more understood, it is clear adaption and inclusion will be big topics in the year to come. Trinity College, UCD, DIT and the University of Limerick are just some employers who have introduced gender-neutral bathrooms across their respective campuses.
Gender identity can be an emotional topic and should be treated in an appropriate and sensitive manner by employers. This means more than just a gender-neutral bathroom or changing facility, it means easily amending a personal file or ID card if required, and having a zero-tolerance policy of bullying and derogatory remarks.
Breach of non-competes
Restrictive covenants in Ireland are considered a contractual matter between an employee and an employer. We have witnessed a steady disregard for contractual restrictive covenants. Accordingly, breach of restrictive covenants, particularly non-compete clauses, is an issue which we envisage will become more common. In the absence of specific legislation, carefully drafted and well thought-out restrictive covenants offer the best protection to employers seeking to restrain staff from jumping ship to competitors.
Age and retirement
The number of workers over 65 in Ireland is on the increase. For the first time in history, five generations can be found working together.
What is becoming clear through recent case law, is many employment contracts and workplace policies are not suitable to match this trend. With the majority of employees believing they will have to work longer than ever before, now is the time for employers to prepare for a more age-diverse workplace. Simple steps include adapting employee handbooks and contracts of employment to ensure they are fit for purpose. Watch out for William Fry's Age Report due to be released in 2019.
EU Directive on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORP II)
The IORP II Directive has a deadline for transposition of January 13, 2019. It is expected the Irish legislature will publish transposing regulations in early 2019. The Pensions Authority is expected to issue supporting guidance. For many schemes IORP II will require them to revise how they approach scheme governance. We intend to schedule a client briefing early next year.
The Government is set to finalise the design of the proposed auto-enrolment system for pensions by Q1 of 2019. It will be interesting to see whether the Government has taken on board the concerns raised by many on that proposed design.
Defined Benefit reforms
Proposed reforms were included in the pre-legislative draft of the Social Welfare Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017. These proposals, which included a provision empowering the Pensions Authority to impose a statutory debt on employers in certain circumstances, were later dropped. Employers with DB schemes should watch out for developments in 2019.
European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA)/European Central Bank reporting
New reporting requirements for pension schemes have been introduced by EIOPA and the ECB. EIOPA's requirements for quarterly reporting will apply from Q3 of 2019. The first reporting deadline for the ECB is end of Q4.
The Central Bank of Ireland has published a list of pension schemes the ECB requirements apply to, and any not on the list has been granted a derogation. The Pensions Authority has contacted registered administrators regarding the data collection process. We expect the administrators will be in contact with affected schemes.
Aoife Gallagher-Watson is an associate in William Fry's Employment & Benefits Department