In our recent poll on LinkedIn, we found that less than half of you update your policies anytime there’s a legislative update, updating your policies either annually or sporadically.
In the ever-evolving landscape of employment laws and regulations in Ireland, HR professionals and business leaders need to stay ahead of the curve to ensure their organisations remain compliant and their employees are well-informed. Updating employment contracts, handbooks, and policies is not just a routine task; it’s a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy and legally sound workplace.
In this guide, Megan Power, HR Consultant here at Insight HR, will provide HR professionals in Ireland with essential insights on how to update their contracts, handbooks, and policies while keeping abreast of the latest employment terms legislation.
P.S. We’ve also got a very useful webinar coming up on this exact topic, on Wednesday 25th of October at 11:15. Register here and get it in the diary!
For now though, read on!
How do I make sure our contracts, handbooks and policies are up-to-date?
- Conduct a thorough review: Start by reviewing your current employment contracts, handbooks, and policies. Identify areas that may be outdated or in need of revision. Pay special attention to changes in employment laws and regulations since your last update.
- Legislative updates: Stay informed about the latest legislative changes in Ireland, such as the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023 and the many other acts that have introduced significant changes to employment terms, including minimum notice periods, parental leave entitlements, and so on.
- Ask the experts: Consider consulting with experts or employment law professionals who specialize in this area. They can provide valuable insights into how these changes affect your organization and help draft compliant documents. As we always say, the time spent on a phone call to an expert before you start, can save 10 times the time on the other side if things go wrong!
- Clear and concise language: Ensure that all contracts, handbooks, and policies are written in clear, understandable language. Avoid jargon that may confuse employees. Any policy is only as good as its implementation. If a policy isn’t clear or understood by your employees, then how can it be truly embedded in your organisation?
- Customisation for your organisation: Tailor your documents to reflect the specific needs and culture of your organisation. Off-the-shelf templates may not address your unique requirements, so make sure to understand what your organisations needs as opposed to simply filling a gap for compliance or ticking a box.
- Regular Reviews: Commit to regular reviews and updates. Employment laws are subject to change, and your documents should evolve accordingly. Regularly gather feedback from employees through surveys, focus groups, or anonymous feedback mechanisms. This feedback can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your policies and identify any emerging issues.
What are some of the recent relevant updates that we should be aware of?
There is a long list of relevant updates, not because we’ve been bombarded with legislation, but because by their very nature, many updates are simply compulsory. However, the below is a non-exhaustive list of the updates we’re helping people with the most, and those that many are finding challenging to get right!
- Whistleblowing: Whether or not you think you’ll need a policy, craft it, implement it, and embed it. Whistleblowing is a classic example of this. Although many companies may never have a need for this policy, it’s something that is absolutely essential to have in place, especially for those with 50 or more employees, to whom this law will apply to from the 17th of December 2023. For these employers, it is important to note the scope of who is defined as an employee, the clarity of the procedure, the detail around penalisation, and all of the key details laid out in the law. Our advice? If you don’t have a policy or reporting procedure in place already, you will need one soon. So gather the support and resources you need to implement this policy, which is coming quickly around the corner.
- Breastfeeding breaks: Although there has been legislation providing for breastfeeding breaks here in Ireland for a number of years, the latest legislation may mean that many companies will be managing these requests for breaks for the first time. For employees, the rights are laid out very clearly here. For employers, it is also essential to ensure you are well-versed on employee rights. And although employers will have the choice under the legislation to decide how these breaks can be taken, due consideration should be given to the employees needs and the fact that there should be no loss of pay (noting the difference between working hours and break times). For many employers, the real key to success here will come from listening to their employee base, and working with them to provide a way of working that works for everyone.
- Domestic violence leave: In simple terms, the latest provision gives an employee who has experienced or is currently experiencing domestic violence a period of paid leave to seek medical attention, assistance from professional services or other forms of support. The leave will be a maximum of five days per 12 months, and thankfully, will be fully paid. The key with this policy though, arguably more than some other, is the availability of support and a culture of empathy and trust for employees who may need to use this policy. As we’ll discuss later, support will need to be prioritised to ensure policies like this truly embedded in your organisation.
My key advice though, for all policies and legislative updates, is to start by examining the legislation and what it means for your organisation.
Before drafting or updating policies, employers and business owners first need to look at how they will introduce this legislation in their organisation.
Will we follow the statutory requirements or offer more generous terms?
Who in the organisation will manage the requests, and are they trained to do this?
Is training required, and are there any other additional resources to be considered?
Preparation is key!
How can we embed our policies and have the right resources in place for our employees?
As we always say, updating policies is only half the battle. The next key step is effectively communicating these policies to your employees. Use multiple communication channels, including company-wide emails, team meetings, line manager briefings, and your internal messaging systems, to ensure that every employee is aware of the updates to policies.
- Training, training, training: engage in regular training sessions to educate employees about their rights and responsibilities associated with your respective policies. This ensures that everyone understands the company’s expectations, fosters a culture of fairness and respect, and reduces the risk of issues. Consider creating comprehensive training programs that cover key policies, conducting regular refresher sessions, providing accessible resources, and promoting open communication channels.
- Recognising breaches of policy: For policies relating to discrimination or dignity at work for example, provide real-world examples of behaviours that are considered to be inappropriate or unacceptable.
- Reporting Procedures: Walk employees through the steps they should take related to any policies which require a reporting aspect.
- Regular Updates: Keep employees informed of any changes in employment contracts, policies, or relevant legislation. Transparency is key to maintaining trust.
- Leadership Commitment: Leaders at all levels should exemplify the behaviours expected of employees. Encourage senior leadership to be champions across a range of policies respectively, demonstrating their commitment to creating a respectful and inclusive environment.
- Employee Input: Support and collaborate with employee resource groups, committees, employee champions or networks that focus on particular employee interests and issues to gain their input and buy-in to any new policies or initiatives. These groups can play a crucial role in driving positive change by organising events, workshops, and also have a useful and clear understanding and awareness of the topics or issues involved.
- Keep it simple: Having a clear set of policies and procedures is essential for any organisation. These policies and procedures need to be as transparent as possible. The less room there is for ambiguity, the less likely there is to be a miscommunication between your business and your employees.
How can Insight HR help?
At Insight HR, our employment contracts and staff handbook development service includes consultation, advice and guidance on your organisation’s level of compliance with current legislation. Through a thorough study of your business and its needs, we will help you to develop a robust document that includes everything relevant to your specific industry. At the end, you will receive workable soft copies of employment contracts and employee handbooks that you can edit and add to as you see fit.
Our Employment Contracts and Staff Handbook development service includes:
Review of existing organisational practice. This involves meeting with key members of your management team to discuss your organisation’s level of compliance with current employment legislation.
Legislation and Compliance
Advice and practical guidance on policies and procedures in order to comply with current employment legislation.
Review of relevant documentation including existing contracts of employment, policies and procedures and any other document relevant to your specific industry. Development of watertight documentation.
Employment Contracts and Staff Handbooks
Provision of a soft copy of the contracts and handbooks and managerial guidelines so you can amend them in-house as necessary.
Whether it’s reviewing policies, updating contracts and handbooks, providing in-person or online training, or providing on-demand advice via our HR support line, the team here at Insight HR will give you quality, consistent, and tailored service, equipping your organisation with the skills and confidence it needs to succeed in this area.
Our promise to clients, is that they will receive a customised, consistent, and customer-focused service from the team here at Insight HR.
If you’d like to hear more about how we can support you with this, and any other HR challenges you might have, get in touch with us via email at email@example.com or chat to us directly on 0567701060!
P.S Do you want additional insights from the experts at our next free webinar?
Join the Insight HR team and special guests, for a discussion on how to craft and embed best-in-class policies, taking place on Wednesday 25th of October at 11.15am!
The HR Room is a free monthly online forum run by Insight HR where you can receive expert HR advice and have your burning questions answered.
Book your place today, before you miss out!