Employment Law is constantly evolving through new legislation and caselaw and over the last decade there has been very considerable change. Phelim O’Neill advises clients on a wide range of employment, equality and industrial relations law issues across both the public and private sectors. Our team deal with cases involving bullying, discrimination, as well as health and safety issues. Often, legal advice is required at any early stage, particularly in the context of the termination of employment contracts. Phelim O'Neill provides advice to our clients to assist them to ensure that fair procedures are applied. In addition, important questions frequently arise as to whether someone is an employee or contractor. We work very closely with our clients to find practical and effective solutions to their problems.
Phelim is experienced in managing claims before the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Rights Commissioner Service, the Labour Relations Commission, the Labour Court and the Equality Tribunal. He also advice our clients in respect of claims for breach of contract, wrongful dismissal, and injunctions restraining dismissal before the High Court.
Some of the main Employment Law issues we deal with include:
Employment Equality, Discrimination and Equal Status issues
Termination of contractsEmployee rights during the sale of businesses including transfer of Undertakings Issues
If you have been out of the workforce for some time, you will need to update yourself on changes that have occurred in the field of employment protection. There have been some substantial changes and acquainting yourself with these developments will help you to maximise your rights.
Employment protection developments 1993-2012
The following is a summary of the legislation that has been introduced in this period concerning employment protection:
- The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012: This Act reforms the wagesetting mechanisms for making Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements.
- Protection of Employment (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012: This Act provides that since 16 May 2012 all temporary agency workers must have equal treatment as if they had been directly recruited by the hirer in respect of the duration of working time, rest periods, night work, annual leave and public holidays and pay. The right to equal pay is backdated to 5 December 2011.
- Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007: This legislation establishes a redundancy panel to consider certain proposed collective redundancies. The Act also removes the upper age limit for entitlement to redundancy payments.
- Employment Permits Act 2006: This Act updates the Employment Permits Act 2003, introducing the Green Card permit and revising the legislation on work permits and spousal permits.
- Employees (Provision of Information and Consulation) Act 2006: This legislation sets establishes minimum requirements for employees' right to information and consultation about the development of their employment's structure and activities. Since 23 March 2008 it applies to employers with at least 50 employees.
- Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006 amends the Parental Leave Act 1998 which provides for a period of unpaid parental leave for parents to care for their children and for a limited right to paid leave in circumstances of serious family illness (force majeure).
- Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005: This legislation replaced the provisions of the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 1989 when it came into operation on 1st September 2005. It consolidates and updates the existing health and safety law. Changes include the provision for higher fines for breaches of safety legislation.
- Adoptive Leave Act 2005: It amends the Adoptive Leave Act, 1995 which provides for adoptive leave from employment principally by the adoptive mother and for her right to return to work following such leave.
- Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004: It includes new provisions relating to ante-natal classes, additional maternity leave, breastfeeding making significant improvements to the Maternity Protection Act 1994 which covers matters such as maternity leave, the right to return to work after such leave and health/safety during and immediately after the pregnancy.
- Equality Act 2004: This legislation makes significant amendments to the Employment Equality Act 1998 which prohibits discrimination in a range of employment-related areas. The prohibited grounds of discrimination are gender, marital status, family status, age, race, religious belief, disability, sexual orientation and membership of the Traveller community. The Act also prohibits sexual and other harassment. The Equality Act also amends the Equal Status Act 2000 to extend the definition of sexual harassment and shift the burden of proof from the complianant to the respondent.
- European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003. This legislation applies to any transfer of an undertaking, business or part of a business from one employer to another employer as a result of a legal transfer (including the assignment or forfeiture of a lease) or merger. Employees rights and entitlements are protected during this transfer.
- Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003: This legislation protects fixed-term employees by ensuring that they cannot be treated less favourably than comparable permanent workers and that employers cannot continually renew fixed term contracts. Under the Act employees can only work on one or more fixed term contracts for a continuous period of four years. After this the employee is considered to have a contract of indefinite duration (e.g. a permanent contract).
- Organisation of Working Time (Records) (Prescribed Form and Exemptions) Regulations 2001. The main purpose of this EU Regulation is the requirement by employers to keep a record of the number of hours worked by employees on a daily and weekly basis, to keep records of leave granted to employees in each week as annual leave or as public holidays and details of the payments in respect of this leave. Employers must also keep weekly records of starting and finishing times of employees.
- Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 - this replaces the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Act, 1991. It provides for the removal of discrimination against part-time workers where such exists. It aims to improve the quality of part-time work, to facilitate the development of part-time work on a voluntary basis and to contribute to the flexible organisation of working time in a manner that takes account of the needs of employers and workers. It guarantees that part-time workers may not be treated less favourably than full-time workers.
- Carer's Leave Act 2001 - this provides for an entitlement for employees to avail of temporary unpaid carer's leave to enable them to care personally for persons who require full-time care and attention.
- National Minimum Wage Act 2000 - introduces an enforceable national minimum wage.
- Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 - regulates a variety of employment conditions including maximum working hours, night work, annual and public holiday leave.
- Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 - replaced previous legislation dating from 1977 and regulates the employment and working conditions of children and young persons.
- Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 - updated previous legislation relating to the provision by employers to employees of information on such matters as job description, rate of pay and hours of work.
- Unfair Dismissals Act 1993 - updates unfair dismissals law and amends previous legislation dating from 1977.
Complaints/breach of rights
Employment law provides protection for employees who feel their rights have been breached. Complaints, disputes and grievances are heard before a Rights Commissioner who will listen to both sides before completing an investigation of the complaint and issuing a recommendation. Recommendations issued by the Rights Commissioner can be binding or non-binding, depending on the type of law under which the case is heard.
The Equality Tribunal investigates claims under equality legislation.
Often, disputes between employers and employees can be resolved using mediation. Mediation means that the Labour Relations Commission is contacted and appoints an independent person to meet with both parties and listen to both sides. This free service is available to all employees and employers (except members of the Gardai, Defence Forces and Prison services). Meetings are held privately and all discussions are confidential.
How to apply
Contact us today and we can assist you with requests for mediation services made to the Workplace Mediation Service at the Labour Relations Commission.
Before you apply to have your complaint heard, we will notify your employer of your intention to contact the Rights Commissioner service. Where legal entitlements are involved, you should try and resolve the matter locally before referring a complaint.
Further information on employment protection legislation may be obtained from Workplace Relations Customer Services - see 'Where to apply' below.
Further information on the Maternity Protection Acts 1994-2004, the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995-2005, the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011 and the Equal Status Acts 2000-2011 may be obtained from the Equality Authority.