It has been a demanding time for HR teams and employers everywhere, as they try to navigate the many challenges that have arisen in recent months and years. Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, we’ve seen topics like the war for talent, diversity & inclusion, employee wellbeing and many others become huge priorities for HR teams and organisations.
A foundational area though, which has seen significant developments in recent months, is the area of employment law.
As we kick off the year in earnest, we wanted to give you an overview of some of the key employment law developments for 2022!
1. Sick Pay & Sick Leave
The issue of sick pay and sick leave has been front and centre for many companies over the course of the pandemic, not just from a policy and legislation standpoint, but also due to significant numbers of staff falling ill, significant staffing challenges, and how long-term illnesses are being considered.
However, the main legislative update this year comes in the form of a new Statutory Sick Pay Scheme. As reported on the Citizens Information website, the draft scheme will introduce:
- Paid sick leave for up to 3 sick days in 2022. This is planned to increase to 5 days in 2023, 7 days in 2024 and 10 days in 2025.
- A rate of payment for statutory sick leave of 70% of normal wages to be paid by employers (up to a maximum €110 per day).
- A right for workers to take a complaint to the WRC where they are not provided with a company sick pay scheme.
To be entitled to paid sick leave under the new scheme, you must be working for your employer for at least 6 months. You will also need to be certified by a GP as unfit to work.
What does this mean for employers?
In the first instance, if you do not currently have a sick leave scheme in place, the new legislation will bring additional costs to your business. Secondly, there is of course a reporting element and associated administrative work if starting from scratch.
For further information, check out the full drafts and scheme on the gov.ie website here.
2. Pay and benefits – The National Minimum Wage
As of the 1st January 2022, the national minimum wage in Ireland has increased to €10.50 per hour. This represents a 30-cent increase, or just under 3%, on the current National Minimum Wage of €10.20 per hour and will see at least an estimated 135,000 people get a boost to their wages.
This brings another positive increase for the country’s lowest paid employees, with increases since 2015 bringing the minimum wage from €8.65 to the current rate.
What does this mean for employers?
Unless an employer cannot afford to pay the national minimum wage due to financial difficulty and receives a Labour Court exemption, employers with employees on the minimum wage will see increased labour costs and are bound by significant protections for minimum wage workers.
For full information on this bill, and notes for employers, visit gov.ie/minimumwage.
3. Gender Pay Gap Reporting
On 13 July 2021, the Irish government introduced gender pay gap reporting as a legal requirement in Ireland. This act will require employers to report on the pay differences between female and male employees, including any bonuses. Ireland’s gender pay gap currently stands at 11.3%, down from the 2017 figure of 14.4%. Although it is being rolled out on a phased basis (dependent on company size), the reporting element is set to finally begin this year (2022).
What do we need to know?
- Mandatory reporting currently only applies to organisations with over 250 employees
- Reporting obligations may be enforced either through the WRC (if non-compliance is reported to them) or by the Circuit or High Courts (by Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission application).
Although the specifics of manner, frequency and form of reporting are yet to be clarified, our takeaway is to get a head start and begin analysing the gender pay gap in your organisation today.
Read more about Gender Pay Gap Reporting here.
4. Probation & EU Law
One legislative update which has gone under the radar, but is of particular importance to HR teams and employers, is the news that primary legislation will be introduced into Irish law by 1 August 2022 to implement the EU’s 2019 directive on transparent and predictable working conditions.
What does this directive include?
In a nutshell, this will set a maximum 6-month limit on staff probationary periods. Irish employment law does not currently prescribe any maximum period of probation that employers can apply to new joiners.
Probationary periods can typically be extended to 11 months here at the present time. Policies typically say that they can be extended by 3 months if the employer is not satisfied at the six-month mark. Unfair dismissals don’t kick in until after 12 months, hence the common practice of 11 months of probation.
What do employers need to know?
As is common in Irish practice, many employers include a probation period in terms of employment. Due to this, the new directive will most certainly affect how employers address probation in their contracts of employment.
The aim is to bring in additional protection for those on probationary periods and provides a more-structured approach to the flow of information a new employee should receive e.g., “essential aspects of the employment relationship.”
For further information, read the full document here.
5. The Right To Disconnect
A development in employment law which most certainly did not fly under the radar in recent months, was the “right to disconnect.”
What is it, really?
As laid out by the WRC in their Code of Practice, “The Right to Disconnect refers to an employee’s right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails, telephone calls or other messages, outside normal working hours.”
The aims here, as is made obvious by the events of the past two years, are to ensure that employees are supported, to align legislation to the new world of work, and to assist employers in developing and implementing policies to facilitate this legislation.
The Code states that the Right to Disconnect has three main elements:
- the right of an employee to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours;
- the right to not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours; and
- the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).
While failure by an employer to follow the Code is not an offence in itself, the Code is now admissible in evidence in proceedings before a Court, the Labour Court or the WRC.
As this now adds further gravitas to the flexible and collaborative cultures that have been encouraged and supported over the past two years, the onus is now on employers to comply with this code of practice and support their employees.
Read the full WRC Code of Practice here.
Do you feel up-to-date and equipped to navigate the world of employment law?
Get even more guidance and advice by signing up to your next free HR Room Webinar – Employment Law Update 2022, with Jennifer Cashman. Save your spot, here!