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 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.