The Government’s “Return to Work Safely Protocol” sets out a number of measures employers must consider as they reopen their businesses and bring staff back to work safely.
In terms of bringing staff back to work, employers should put in place a number of measures, including:
Employees must be issued with a pre-return to work form to be completed at least 3 days prior to their return. In completing the form, employees will self-declare as being fit to return to work. If a worker answers Yes to any of the questions, they are strongly advised to seek medical advise before returning to work. A template questionnaire including all required questions can be downloaded here.
any other relevant sector specific advice
Following a risk assessment, employers should arrange for the necessary controls to be put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.
Temperature testing should be implemented in line with Public Health advice.
Review and revise existing sick leave policies and amend as appropriate and in line with Covid-19 procedures. A revised sick leave policy is now available in Bright Contracts.
The full Return to Work Safely Protocol can be viewed here.
Under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2014 a lay-off situation arises if an employer is unable to provide work to an employee for which they are employed to do. A short-time situation arises if an employee's weekly pay or hours is less than 50% of their normal weekly pay or hours due to a reduction in the amount of work to be done for which they are employed to do.
Continuity of Service
Continuity of service is not normally affected by lay-offs. For example, if an employee has been working for an employer for 10 years and is laid off temporarily, their 10 years’ service will remain intact.
Employees working short-time will continue to accrue leave for the hours they work.
Employees on lay-off will continue to accrue public holidays that occur during the first 13 weeks. They will not accrue annual leave during the period of lay-off.
The annual leave that they accrued up until the point of being laid off will remain intact. Employers should not pay employees in lieu of this annual leave. Rather, it should be made available to the employee to take once they return to work. Given the exceptional circumstances that we are living in, it could well be the case that an employee genuinely cannot take their accrued annual leave this year. If this situation arises employers should try to be flexible in terms of allowing an employee to carry over leave into the next calendar year.
The law on claiming redundancy following a period of lay-off or short-time working had been changed during the Covid-19 emergency period. The emergency period is currently set as 13 March 2020 to 31 May 2020, however this may be extended.
Normally, employees who are laid off or put on short-time hours, you can claim redundancy from their employer after 4 weeks or more, or 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks.
Under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19), employees who have been laid off during the emergency period, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, are not able to claim redundancy.
As the country tries to get to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic and companies are struggling with temporarily closing their business and laying-off staff, here are some key things you need to know about layoff.
Layoff or redundancy?
As a result of the recent business closures, many employees have been layed-off. Layoff is a temporary measure, whereby the individual is still an employee of the company but they are not receiving any remuneration for the duration of the layoff. Normally, once the situation that led to the layoff is over, the employee will return to their previous role on the same terms and conditions, their length of service will not be impacted by the layoff. In the current situation, it is hoped that many business will be able to re-engage their staff once the current emergency situation eases.
Redundancy on the other hand occurs when the employee loses their job permanently, due to a business closure or a reduction in work levels.
Other Layoff Considerations
Minister, Regina Doherty, has announced that from 1 February 2020, the minimum wage will increase from €9.80 per hour to €10.10.
The decision to increase minimum wage by 30 cent follows a recommendation in October by the Low Pay Commission. Strong economic growth and greater certainty surrounding Brexit were two key factors in the decision to introduce the increase.
In order to ensure that the increase in the minimum wage does not result in employers attracting a higher level of PRSI, the employer PRSI threshold will increase from €386 to €395 from 1 February 2020.
Minister Doherty is quoted as saying that; “with this most recent increase in the National Minimum Wage, an employee on minimum wage who works a full 39 hour week will now receive an additional €11.70 per week, or an extra €608.40 gross per year.” It is estimated that over 127,000 workers will benefit from the increase.
Employers should also note that the minimum wage for younger workers will also increase:
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on 25th May 2018 changing the way we process data forever. The aim of the GDPR is to put greater protection on the way personal data is being processed for all EU citizens. Personal data can be anything from a name, an email address, PPS number, bank details etc so as you can imagine employers process a huge amount of personal data on a daily basis. So how will the GDPR affect employers in terms of processing employee data?
Data in the employment context, will include information obtained from an employee during the recruitment process (regardless of whether or not they eventually got the job), it will also include the information you hold on current employees and previous employees. All this information may be saved in hard copy personnel files, held on HR systems or it could be information contained in emails or information obtained through employee monitoring.
Under GDPR your employee’s will have increased rights around their data. These rights will include:
Employee Self Service
Under the GDPR legislation, where possible employers should be able to provide self-service remote access to a secure system which would allow employees view and manage their personal data online 24/7. Furthermore, the cloud functionality will improve your payroll processing with simple email distribution, safe document upload, easy leave management and improved communication with your employees. By introducing a self-service option, you will be taking steps to be GDPR ready.
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Those of you who were on any of our recent GDPR webinars will be aware that data controllers (e.g. a payroll bureau client) need to be amending their contracts with any data processors (e.g. the payroll bureau) to accommodate the new requirements under the GDPR.
For those of you who did not get to attend our webinars here is a brief overview.
Whenever a data controller uses a data processor there needs to be a written contract in place. The contract is important so that both parties understand their responsibilities and liabilities. The GDPR sets out certain information which needs to be included in the contract.
Controllers are liable for their compliance with the GDPR and must only appoint processors who can provide ‘sufficient guarantees’ that the requirements of the GDPR will be met and the rights of data subjects (an individual who is the subject of personal data) protected.
Processors must only act on the documented instructions of a controller. They will however have some direct responsibilities under the GDPR and may be subject to fines or other sanctions if they don’t comply.
What does this contract look like?
To comply with the new requirements under GDPR you could either:
Our Advice to Payroll Bureaus
Our advice to payroll bureaus is that when it comes to GDPR you should aim to take an active role in educating your clients about GDPR.
Although the onus is on data controllers to ensure contracts are in place, payroll bureaus looking to get ahead of the GDPR would be well advised to approach their clients and instigate putting the appropriate contracts in place.
Template Data Protection Agreement (DPA)
To assist our customers we have created a template Data Protection Agreement which can be used as an addendum to any existing agreements.
This year St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday, leaving many businesses confused as to how the benefit for St. Patrick’s Day should be given. We’ve clarified what you need to know here:
Monday 19th March 2018 may be a Bank Holiday, in that the banks are closed, but it is a normal working day and not a Public Holiday, Saturday 17th is the Public Holiday. Many businesses that operate Monday to Friday will honour Monday 19th as the holiday and close that day, but this is not a mandatory requirement. It is a requirement that full-time employees, and eligible part-time employees, are given their public holiday statutory entitlement for Saturday 17th March.
What is the Statutory Entitlement?
An employee is entitled to their employer’s choice of the following in respect of a public holiday:
Open for business on 17th March & 19th March?
Businesses that are open for business on Saturday 17th March should treat Saturday 17th March as the Public Holiday. Employees who are scheduled to work on that day should receive one of the last three options above. Employees who are not scheduled to work on 17th March may receive any of the four options. In this situation, there will be no further requirement to offer an additional benefit on Monday 19th March, this will be seen as a regular day.
With the recent bad weather, many businesses across the country have been forced to close or get by with skeleton staff. The question now on most employer’s minds is do they have to pay staff who are unable to come into work, whether because of workplace closure or inability to travel.
There is no legal obligation on employers to pay their employees if the business was forced to close due to extreme weather conditions or if employees were unable to travel to work due to bad weather. However, it is important to be aware of any custom and practice in the organisation or contractual clause, which may override this position.
The general advice to employers is to be as flexible as possible. The handling of bad weather and travel disruption can be a real opportunity for an employer to boost staff morale and show yourself as an all round fair employer. Possible considerations might include:
A company policy on absence due to inclement weather should address the situation where employees are unable to attend work, due to weather-related circumstances. Having such a policy should also mean there is much less scope for confusion and disagreement.
An Inclement Weather policy is available within the Optional Sections of the Bright Contracts Handbook.
September 2016 saw the introduction of Paternity Leave, that for the first time ever allowed fathers/partners to take two weeks paid leave on the birth of a child/placement of a child for adoption. Paternity Leave is paid at the same rate as Maternity Pay, currently €235 per week*, leaving it up to employers to decide whether or not they wish to top-up pay during the two weeks leave. The question then arose that if by topping up maternity leave, would an employer by default have to top up paternity pay?
A recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) case involving a transport company, provides useful guidance on the answer to this question.
In this case, a male employee brought a case under the Employment Equality Act claiming discrimination on the grounds of gender due to the fact that the employer topped up maternity pay but did not top up paternity pay.
However, the WRC Adjudicator held in favour of the Company, stating that maternity leave is different to paternity leave and that “the special protection afforded to women in connection with pregnancy and maternity is embedded in European and Irish law”. The Adjudicator concluded that the employer was entitled to make special provisions for women at the time of maternity leave and was protected in that regard by the Employment Equality Acts.
This case gives the green light to employers who wish to offer a maternity top up but not offer the same for paternity leave. Whatever it is you decide on, employers are advised to have clear paternity and maternity leave policies in place that is accessible to all employees.
*The rate of maternity/paternity pay will increase to €240 per week from the end of March 2018.
From 1st October 2017, the period for which Maternity Benefit is paid has been extended in cases where a baby is born prematurely. A premature birth is described as one at less than 37 weeks’ gestation. It is estimated that every year in Ireland approximately 4,500 babies are born prematurely.
Currently, under the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004, a mother is entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave and 16 weeks’ unpaid leave. Maternity leave normally starts two weeks before the babies expected due date or on the date of the birth of the child should it be earlier.
Under the new amendment, where a child is born prematurely the mother’s paid maternity leave will be extended by the equivalent of the duration between the actual date of birth of the premature baby and the date when the maternity leave was expected to start. For example, where a baby is born in the 30th week of gestation the mother would have an additional entitlement of approximately 7 weeks of maternity leave and benefit i.e. from the date of birth in the 30th week to the two weeks before the expected date of confinement. This additional period will be added onto the mother’s normal entitlement to 26 weeks of maternity leave and benefit, where the mother meets the ordinary qualifying criteria.
Mothers of preterm babies are advised to contact the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), email email@example.com, to arrange the additional payment.
Babies surviving from the earliest gestations, such as 23 weeks, can spend months in a neonatal unit in hospital, by the time a premature baby gets to go home, a mother’s maternity leave can almost be used up. This new change has been heralded as a positive step in supporting parents during a difficult time.