HR developments: The 2018 recap

After updating your company policies and procedures as necessary, it is best practice to reissue them to all staff annually as a reminder of the policies that form part of their conditions of employment
After updating your company policies and procedures as necessary, it is best practice to reissue them to all staff annually as a reminder of the policies that form part of their conditions of employment

It’s vital to start 2019 the way you mean to continue – fully up-to-date and compliant with all relevant HR management legislation. With that in mind, Caroline McEnery of The HR Suite outlines all you need to know to get in ship-shape for the year ahead

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18 January 2019 | 0

National Minimum Wage

The government accepted the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission and announced that an increase to the minimum rate of pay took effect since 1 January 2019. The minimum rate of pay since 1 January 2019 is €9.80 per hour. This corresponds to an increase of 2.6% on last year’s rate of €9.55 per hour. If your organisation uses the inexperienced worker rates, these have also increased pro-rata additionally as shown below.

Experienced adult worker €9.80
Over 19 and less than two years since first job €8.82
Over 18 and less than one year since began first job €7.84
Aged under 18 €6.86

Retirement

Retirement is a fundamental headline employment issue in light of the recent increase of the state pension age from 65 to 66, and the impending further increases to 67 and 68 in 2021 and 2028 respectively. The issue of retirement is one which comes up regularly for employers and has attracted much recent attention due to case law. There is no single fixed mandatory retirement age for employees in Ireland. An employee’s contractual retirement age is an entirely separate issue to the age at which employees are entitled to draw down their state pension. An employer is lawfully entitled to set individual retirement ages in the contract of employments. We expect case law on the same to multiply this year and expect it to continue.

Workplace relations inspections/cases

Oonagh Buckley, director general of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) submitted the commission’s third annual report to the Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection in 2018. The report showed that the WRC concluded 4,747 inspections in 2017, covering over 99,000 employees. In total, 58% of these inspections were unannounced. By far the most common legislative breach was in relation to insufficient employment records, accounting for over 50% of the breaches identified. The WRC inspections carried out in 2017 resulted in €1.77m in recovered wages for employees. This was an increase of €270,000 from the previous year. It is vital that you ensure your current practices are in line with legislation to avoid potential fines, prosecution or publicity. Start the year afresh and contact The HR Suite to conduct a full audit of your HR practices to ensure that you are compliant with the relevant legislation as inspected by the WRC.

Data protection

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on 25 May 2018, replacing the existing data protection frameworks in Ireland under the EU Data Protection Directive. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) significantly increases the obligations and responsibilities for organisations and businesses in how they collect, use and protect personal data. The new legislation now includes compensation for individuals whose data has been breached which was unheard of in the older acts. In addition, fines have increased, reaching up to €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover. This will be another element of the employment relationship that owners and managers will have to administer correctly and seek advice for moving into 2019.

Gender pay gap 

There is now proposed legislation for Ireland to understand and regulate the gender pay gap; the difference between the average gross earnings of female and male employees. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill published by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will compel employers with a certain number of staff to publish information on the gender pay gap in their firm. The regulations will apply to employers with 250 or more employees initially, then to those with 150 or more, and finally those with 50 or more. They will apply to the public as well as the private sector. An employee of the employer concerned may also apply to the Workplace Relations Commission for an order requiring compliance.

Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will become law in 2019. The government states that the objective of the bill is to improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts, and those working variable hours. It follows the publication of the University of Limerick study on zero-hour contracts and low-hour contracts, as well as an extensive public consultation process and in-depth discussions with ICTU and IBEC over a number of months. This new legislation, once enacted, will bring about many changes in employment law such as the prohibition of zero hours working practices in certain circumstances and minimum payment in certain circumstances, employers to provide statements of employment within five days of commencement of employment and more detailed banded hours description to be included in all employment contracts.

Disciplinary investigation process

Recent case law has seen increased emphasis being placed on the thoroughness and procedural stability of the investigative process in the workplace, specifically in the case of dismissal or reputational damage. In the recent High Court case of Lyons vs Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board, the High Court concluded that an investigation into alleged incidents of bullying carried out by an external investigator on behalf of a college administered by Longford Westmeath ETB (LWETB) was in breach of the constitutional right to fair procedures. This occurred through the refusal to allow legal representatives to appear on behalf of the applicant and the court found the employee should also have been afforded the right to cross-examine his accuser. Two subsequent High Court cases confirmed that employers should be striving for fairness, not perfection, but these recent case determinations show us the level of procedural requirements demanded of employers during workplace investigations. We see this developing further into 2019 whereby the difference between case law and the code of conduct will continue to differentiate with case law setting a precedent for disciplinaries.

Company policies and procedures/handbook

The start of a new year is always a good time to review your current company policies and procedures/handbook and update as necessary. During the course of the past year, you have no doubt come across small to medium size issues that you wish to include in the handbook. This could range from an update to your data protection policy or CCTV policy in light of GDPR, to clarifying the way in which holidays are permitted in your organisation. If no updates are needed to your current policies and procedures/handbook, it is best practice to have them reissued to all staff annually. This aims to ensure that all team members are reminded of the policies that form part of their conditions of employment.


CONTACT THE HR SUITE

If you require further information or advice on the topics outlined, contact The HR Suite’s consultants on (01)9014335 or (066)7102887 or email info@thehrsuiteonline.com.


 

 



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