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Employment Law Update

There have been so many changes and proposed amendments in employment law recently that it is a job in itself to keep up with them. There is so much to consider when running a business with day-to-day tasks, that keeping up to date with all these modifications is a minefield.

Below is an explanation of some important changes that will impact your business and some considerations for you when it comes to these new pieces of legislation.

  1. Statutory Sick Pay Scheme

The Sick Leave Act 2022 became law in July this year. This new legislation provides employees with a statutory entitlement to a minimum period of paid sick leave from 1st January 2023, once the law is commenced. On this date workers will have the following rights:

  • Paid sick leave for employees up to 3 sick days per year. This will increase to 5 days in 2024, 7 days in 2025 and 10 days in 2026
  • 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)
  • Take a complaint to the WRC where an employee is not provided with a company sick pay scheme.

It is important to note that in order for an employee to be eligible for this scheme, they must be working for the employer for at least 13 weeks and provide a sick cert from a GP.

While the final details of the scheme are still not available, it seems certain that the cost will lie with the employer to pay this statutory sick pay. Our advice would be to start considering this possible financial impact on your business in the coming few years, as you will be legally obliged to pay each employees up to 10 days sick days by 2026. It would also be a good time to begin to review and update your employment contracts and sick pay policy, so they are in line with the new scheme. This will ensure  you’re prepared for when these changes come into effect, as the employer is obliged to notify the employees of this change.

  1. Right to work remotely

Remote working is now an option a lot of employees are taking advantage of, and has become a permanent feature of Ireland’s workforce. Remote work has spiked following the need for this option during the Covid-19 pandemic. The government have published Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021 and hope to make this a new way to work that can benefit all – economically, socially and environmentally.

The draft Bill needs to go through the full legislative procedure before it becomes law. We currently have no information on when this will take place. It is important to note that this bill is not proposing the right to work remotely, but a legal right to request remote working. As an employer you will be able to refuse a request for remote working if there are reasonable grounds to do so. The reasonable grounds will be set out in the legislation.

Our recommendation and considerations to prepare for this Bill would be as follows:

  • Consider arrangements for your team to work from home
  • Conduct risk assessments for each employee who is working from home and assess whether employees have the correct set up and equipment for the home office
  • Draft a remote working policy and risk assessment
  • Assess data security and confidentiality
  • The home will be classified as the employees’ workplace and there would be a possibility that this could extend the employers liability in relation to insurance and health and safety
  1. Whistleblowing

The Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 was signed into law this July but has yet to take effect. The Act updates the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and changes the EU Whistleblowing Directive into Irish law, however, new regulations are needed to commence the Act.

As an introduction, whistleblowing occurs when a worker raises a concern or discloses information that relates to wrongdoing, illegal practices, or unethical conduct which has come to his/her attention through work.

This is a powerful pieces of employment legislation for Ireland and the main proposed updates to date in relation to this act are:

  • It will broaden the scope of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 in relation to reporting of breaches of EU law
  • Include protections for board members, shareholders, volunteers, unpaid trainees and job applicants who make a protected disclosure
  • Reverse the burden of proof for penalisation cases. This means the employer will need to prove that any alleged penalisation was not a direct result of the employee making a protected disclosure
  • The amended Act will place an obligation on all private sector employers with 50 or more employees, to establish and maintain internal reporting channels and procedures for employees to make protected disclosures. Those channels and procedures will be subject to WRC inspections
  • There will now be criminal penalties for penalisation in certain cases, including breaching the duty of confidentiality as regards the identity of a reporting person

Our advice would be (for any company with more than 50 employees) you should begin drafting policies and processes for protected disclosures.

For further information on the above legislation,contact our HR team at [email protected].