Last updated: January 4th, 2022
Keeping up with changes in employment law is no small task. With so much to consider and not enough time in the day, it’s understandable if you haven’t read up on the new developments yet.
To give you a better idea of what important employment law changes to expect in 2022, we’ve picked the top five to keep an eye out for.
1. Statutory Sick Pay scheme (SSP)
The Sick Pay Bill 2021 had originally been expected to come into effect in early 2022. However, this Bill is still undergoing legislative process and there’s no confirmation of when we can expect the scheme to come into effect.
This Bill will require all employers to provide statutory sick pay to qualifying employees. This new entitlement will come in on a phased basis. Employees will initially be entitled to paid sick leave for three days, increasing to five days in 2023, seven days in 2024, and up to 10 days in 2025.
Proposed legislation indicates that employers will be required to pay 70% of an employee’s wage and a daily threshold of €110 will apply. This is a significant change to Irish employment law; employers currently have no obligation to pay an employee for sick leave. Ireland is one of the few countries in the EU that does not currently operate a statutory sick pay scheme.
To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay in Ireland, employees must be working for an employer for a minimum of 13 weeks and must obtain a medical certificate declaring them unfit for work. SSP will be statutorily protected, just like Maternity/Paternity Leave. SSP will be a legally enforceable right and failure to comply could result in a claim against the employer to the WRC. As an employer, the best way you can prepare for SSP is to ensure that your employment contracts are ready to reflect the new changes in legislation when it’s introduced.
2. Right to work remotely
Remote working looks set to become one of the main legacies of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government published their National Remote Working Strategy in January 2021, introducing a roadmap for remote work in Ireland. This Strategy was originally expected to come into effect in 2021, but there have been no recent updates on the status of the legislation.
While COVID-19 has drastically changed the working landscape in Ireland, many people have embraced remote working. Not everyone has welcomed it though, as not every employee can work from home. Working from home can be problematic for employers too as it brings a number of health & safety obligations and challenges for both data security and confidentiality.
3. Gender Pay Gap reporting
In July 2021, the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 was signed into law. This Act introduced gender pay gap reporting to Ireland, but the operational aspects of the Bill are not yet published. As a result, it remains unclear what the specific reporting obligations will be for employers. A gender pay gap is considered the percentage difference between the average hourly wage of men and women in a business.
Gender pay gap legislation will legally require employers to reveal the pay gap between female and male employees. The Act will come into effect on a phased basis and initially impact both private and public sector employers who employ more than 250 employees. Within two years, it will be applicable to employers who employ more than 150 employees. Within three years, it will apply to those with 50+ employees. For employers with under 50 employees, there will be no reporting obligations.
The reporting of the pay gap between male and female employees doesn’t allow for the status or seniority of an employee, it relates solely to the gap in pay between men and women. Currently, the date for when the first annual gender pay gap disclosure requirement will commence is unconfirmed.
This Act will have serious implications for employers. Whilst the Act itself doesn’t give rise to penalties, there is potential for serious reputational damage. As an employer, you should take advantage of the available time to prepare as much as possible for the upcoming change in the law. Familiarising yourself with Gender Pay Gap Reporting is a good place to start.
Ireland was expected to have transposed the EU Whistleblowing Directive into Irish law by December 17th, 2021. However, it’s now expected that this legislation won’t come into effect until later in 2022. Legislation to protect whistleblowers already exists in Ireland; the inclusion of this Directive in Irish law will offer an extension of the existing protections.
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 provides protection for employees who “blow the whistle”. This legislation is essentially aimed at encouraging and protecting employees in relation to the reporting of wrongdoing in the workplace. The introduction of these laws will extend the current protections of protected disclosures to include unpaid trainees, shareholders, job applicants, board members and volunteers. This law will apply to both public and private businesses that operate within the EU and have 50+ employees. The legislation protects a whistleblower when reporting breaches of EU law and is only relevant to EU laws. It doesn’t offer protection to whistleblowers of breaches of non-EU laws.
This Directive is due to be implemented on a phased basis, initially affecting businesses with 250 workers or more. There will be a derogation of this requirement for businesses that employ 50-249 workers until December 17th, 2023. Implementing the Whistleblowing Directive will present many challenges for businesses as they will face a mix of newly implemented and existing whistleblowing laws which they must comply with.
5. Parents Leave
The right of employees to take unpaid parental leave is set out in the Parental Leave Acts, 1998-2019. This right is also set out in the European Union Regulations 2013 (SI No.81/2013) that came about in March 2013.
The purpose of the law is to allow parents to take a period of unpaid leave from their employment to care for young children. When paid parent’s leave laws were introduced in 2019, parents received a right to take paid leave from work during the first year of a child’s life. These provisions were extended in 2021 to provide parents with five weeks of paid leave during the first two years of their child’s life. It was announced in Budget 2022 that this leave would be extended to provide parents with seven weeks of Parents Leave. These changes will come into effect from July 2022.
From an employer’s perspective, the management of the increasing range of paid family-friendly leave entitlements is a growing challenge. The best way to handle family-friendly leave entitlements is to have clear workplace policies in place. Well-drafted, up-to-date policies provide clarity for staff and are vital for keeping employers on track when dealing with HR issues.
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