HR and health & safety headaches that keep employers awake at night

Amie Doran

October 15 2019

Being a HR and health & safety expert, we handle a lot of employer queries. Our advisors are constantly handling everyday issues, many of which leave employers a little flustered.

Like yourself, we want to see your business succeed. For that to happen, you need to be prepared to face the inevitable.

With that in mind, we’ve brought together the top HR and health & safety issues that employers tend to worry about. Familiarise yourself with them, and you may save yourself sleepless nights in the future. 

Holiday pay and annual leave

Your employees enjoy a legal entitlement to paid annual leave. Paid annual leave was in fact introduced under EU law as way to ensure the health and safety of workers.

A common query we receive from employers is how to calculate the amount of paid annual leave an employee receives. The amount of paid annual leave employees receive will depend on the amount of work the employee completes during the leave year.

Annual leave entitlements are governed by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. The statutory minimum paid annual leave entitlement for employees can be calculated using one of the following methods:

  • An employee who works at least 1,365 hours in a year receives the full entitlement of 4 working weeks of annual leave.
  • An employee who works at least 117 hours in a month receives one-third of a working week for each month in the leave year.
  • Part-time employees are entitled to 8% of the hours worked in a full leave year (but subject to a maximum of four working weeks).

Long-term sick leave

If an employee is on long-term sick leave, it’s important to remain helpful and keep in regular contact with the employee. If the employee is no longer capable of completing their role, you may need to consider dismissal. It’s vital to follow the correct procedures to make sure you either get your employee safely back to work or if necessary, you end the employment relationship in a fair and transparent fashion.

A headache for sure, but manageable if you follow the correct procedures.

Maternity and parental leave and pay

Since the beginning of September, working parents are entitled to a further four weeks of unpaid parental leave.  

And in early October, the government published the Parent’s Leave and Benefit Bill 2019. This law will give parents an extra 2 weeks’ paid leave entitlement, adding to the maternity, paternity and adoptive benefits parents can already avail of.

Parental entitlements and benefits affect you as a business owner. If you employ parents of young children, you’re more likely to face an issue regarding leave, such as force majeure. When these emergency incidents present themselves, it’s best to have a policy in place to fall back on. 

Poor employee performance

Employers often ask us how to handle underperforming employees. Regular reviews help identify performance issues at an early stage. If performance issues arise, it’s a good idea to sit down with the employee to establish the reasons.

Reasons an employee might be falling behind include:

  • Lack of job satisfaction
  • Heavy workload
  • Lack of direction in their role
  • Internal conflict
  • Personal issues 

Whatever the issue, talk to the employee. Together you can get to the root cause and work on fixing the problem. An Employee Assistance Programme can also help you here, offering your employees 24-hour advice on all of life’s problems.

Redundancy/TUPE

Redundancy is a stressful process for both employers and employees. The technicalities of managing a redundancy process only add to the stress for everyone concerned. It’s vital that you handle redundancy carefully to ensure your employees receive their legal entitlements and you comply with redundancy payments laws.

Employers who are buying or selling a business are sometimes stumped by the TUPE Regulations. When a new owner takes over a business, any employees in the business enjoy legal protections contained within the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003. For example, employees cannot have their salaries reduced or be forced into new contracts of employment. If you’re thinking of buying a business with employees, you’ll need to factor the TUPE Regulations into your calculations. 

Contracts

Contract issues are one of the top queries our advisers deal with from worried employers. Many employers are unaware of their obligation to provide employees with certain written conditions of employment. This is particularly risky since the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 came into effect. Employers now have to provide employees with five core terms of employment within five days of an employee’s start date.

Likewise, busy employers can’t always find the time to stay on top of new employment laws e.g. the banned use of zero-hour contracts earlier this year.  

The point is, you need to stay on top of your employees’ contracts. It’s not easy, but it certainly beats a potential fine from the Workplace Relations Commission.

Health & safety accidents

Health & safety incidents can be very costly for employers. Health & safety legislation requires you, the employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees during work. Part of this duty involves assessing the risks employees face and taking relevant action to make the work environment safer.

As well as exposing your business to claims for damages, breaching almost any aspect of health & safety legislation is potentially a criminal offence. Being unaware of the law will be no defence. Many businesses find it impossible to recover from the adverse publicity and reputational damage of a serious health & safety prosecution.

If you’re affected by any of these issues, or any other HR or health & safety issue, our advisors are waiting to offer FREE advice. Call us anytime day or night on 1890 252 923, or if you would like to request a callback, click here.

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