The EU Trade Secrets (Enforcement, etc) Regulations 2018 recently came into effect, implementing the EU Trade Secrets Directive in Ireland. The regulations provide for the examination of a whistleblower's motivation where the disclosure or use of a trade secret is involved. Employers should be aware of this change and should, when receiving a protected disclosure, consider whether the protected disclosure contains information which might qualify as a trade secret.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently handed down its eagerly awaited preliminary ruling in a decade-long age discrimination case relating to the requirement that new entrants to the Irish police service, An Garda Síochána, be under 35 years old. The ECJ's ruling will undoubtedly affect the approach taken by the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court when similar issues arise.
With preparations in full swing for the festive season, this article reviews typical workplace issues which are commonly faced by employers at Christmas. In addition to health and safety considerations, employers are advised to draw up rosters in early December to confirm with employees the days that they will be required to work over the holiday period. This should be done to avoid confusion or upset among staff and to comply with the Organisation of Working Time Act.
Heightened awareness of data privacy rights following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation has increased the number of subject access requests from current and former employees. As responding to subject access requests can be costly and time consuming, being prepared and organised can save employers considerable time and money, particularly in the context of employment disputes.
Employers cannot be expected to hold positions open indefinitely for employees who are absent on extended sick leave. However, as confirmed in a recent Labour Court determination, where an employer proposes to dismiss an employee on the grounds of incapacity or a disability, it is essential that the decision is made based on up-to-date medical advice. Otherwise, the employer may be exposed to claims of discriminatory dismissal or failure to reasonably accommodate the employee.
The Shared Maternity Leave and Benefit Bill is still at an early stage but, if enacted, it would transform the potential entitlements of fathers, among others, to take time off following the birth of their child. It would also allow pregnant employees to share ordinary maternity leave with a relevant parent. If the bill moves forward, employers will need to update their policies regarding maternity leave and consider how to treat those on shared maternity leave.
The minister for business, enterprise and innovation recently signed off on changes to the Employment Permits Regulations, making it easier for certain businesses in the agri-food sector to source workers from outside the European Economic Area. The announcement is a positive indication of the government's willingness to meet Ireland's changing labour needs and may signal a more flexible approach.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection recently launched an ad campaign on what they term 'false self-employment'. If an individual is deemed to be an employee instead of self-employed following assessment, it could have serious employment law, tax or social welfare implications for the employers concerned. Businesses that engage individuals on a self-employed basis should take steps to ensure that their work practices are appropriate.
Employers that provide references for former employees may be sued for negligent misstatement if the reference is found to be inaccurate. Employers should therefore take reasonable care to ensure that references are not misleading due to omitted information or the inclusion of facts which, although accurate when viewed discretely, either through nuance or innuendo generate a misleading picture when considered overall.
A recent case regarding a claim of unfair dismissal was appealed on a point of law from the Labour Court to the High Court. The Labour Court decided that an employee should have been advised by her employer in advance of signing a fixed-term contract of the effect that the contract would have on her contractual status as an employee. It held that it was insufficient for the employer to simply rely on the fact that the contract had complied with the Unfair Dismissals Acts.
The aim of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 is to provide a framework and a set of broad general duties and organisational arrangements necessary to improve health and safety standards. However, the regulations required to give full effect to the act's provisions on alcohol and drug testing are still awaited. This update considers the policies that employers may choose to implement in this regard.
The year 2009 was slow on the legislative front. The year saw the publication of three employment-related bills: the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill, the Employment Agencies Regulation Bill and the Labour Services (Amendment) Bill. This update outlines the aims of each new bill.
New legislation has been introduced which significantly amends a number of areas of the Pensions Act. These measures have been primarily introduced in response to a European Court of Justice decision in relation to the state's obligations under the EU Insolvency Directive and the funding crisis in which many defined benefit pension schemes in Ireland find themselves.
The Labour Court has ruled that notified redundancies could amount to exceptional collective redundancies provided that: (i) they were implemented following a refusal by the relevant employees to accept proposed changes to their terms and conditions of employment, and (ii) the employer subsequently replaced the redundant employees with other employees on less favourable terms and conditions.
The main purpose of the Employment Agencies Regulation Bill is to strengthen the regulatory framework for the operation of employment agency services by requiring employment agencies to be licensed in Ireland. The licensing requirement applies to both Irish and foreign-based employment agencies.
In a recent decision the High Court has clarified the fate of employees who object to moving to a new employer in circumstances in which their jobs are outsourced as part of a transfer of undertakings. This issue had become a matter of particular concern for employers following a 2007 Employment Appeals Tribunal decision.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) recently held that redundancies were not genuine in a case in which the work that the employees had been doing was subsequently completed by a subcontractor. The decision serves as a reminder that the EAT is prepared to rule that individual redundancies are unfair if it views the employer's conduct in relation to the dismissals to have been unreasonable.
The Employment Rights Compliance Bill 2008, which will place the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) on a statutory footing, is expected to be enacted by the end of July 2009. One of the purposes of the bill is to strengthen the powers of NERA's labour inspectors.
When the Employment Law Compliance Bill was introduced in 2008, Minister Michael Martin stated that it was "the most significant single piece of legislation introduced in the employment rights area in recent years". The second stage of the bill has been put before the Dáil and the minister has outlined the proposed changes in general terms.
The High Court has indicated that it does not consider the employment injunction an appropriate mechanism to deal with complaints arising from a redundancy process. This should be welcome news to employers currently undergoing redundancy programmes, as the legal costs incurred in defending claims of unfair dismissal are significantly lower than those incurred in defending a High Court application for an employment injunction.