The employment of staff is heavily regulated and so it’s essential to comply with Irish employment laws.
As there’s an inherent imbalance in power in the employment relationship, employment law has developed to protect employees against abuses of power by unscrupulous employers.
So from an employee perspective, the importance of employment legislation is the wide range of protections it affords.
With sources of law including statutes, court decisions and Workplace Relations Commission rulings, it is very easy for employers to underestimate the importance of employment law compliance.
The consequences of failing to comply with employment laws include the:
- Time cost of defending employee claims.
- Financial cost of defending claims.
- Exposure to court orders to pay compensation.
- Negative reputational consequences associated with breaching the law.
Employment law compliance begins pre-contract
Your legal obligations as an employer actually begin before the employment relationship begins.
When you advertise a job, for instance, you must ensure the wording of the vacancy complies with equality laws relating to access to employment.
An advertisement seeking a ‘young, dynamic individual’ for example will fall foul of anti-discrimination laws.
Likewise, you must not ask interview questions that raise an inference of discrimination.
If an unsuccessful job applicant can establish there has been a breach of equality legislation during the interview and selection process, it could be a drain on time and financial resources.
Especially if the aggrieved applicant makes a claim in the Workplace Relations Commission.
Anti-discrimination laws are some of the most important employment laws and must be complied with both before and after the employment relationship begins.
Why is employment law important?
It helps to ensure your business treats employees fairly, such as avoiding discrimination—as well as paying the national minimum wage.
However, it’s not all one-way traffic—employees must comply with certain minimum standards.
For example, employment law ensures they perform their duties and to the best of their standard. This means they can’t breach their contract of employment.
For a mutually beneficial employment relationship, we can’t understate the importance of having employment rights and responsibilities clarified in writing to protect the employer and the employee. The reasons for this are:
- Employment contracts can help resolve any legal disputes that may arise between you and your employee.
- You can outline wage information, which helps you to manage your budget and ensure staff receive appropriate pay.
- The chance to clearly explain what your staff member’s duties are on a daily basis. This can then, for example, help you dismiss an employee if they breach their contract.
- Your terms of employment ensure an employee can’t leave their role without warning. This is particularly important for workers with contracts.
- Employees will understand their rights to:
- Sick leave.
- Holiday pay.
- Maternity leave.
- Paternity leave.
- Parental leave.
- Compassionate leave.
- You can outline the hours of employment, which prevents staff from under or overworking (presenteeism).
Some of the most important labour laws in Ireland are below. You should consider them for all employment contracts:
- Written Statement of Main Terms: Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 and 2001.
- Zero hours and Precarious Work: Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018.
- Anti-discrimination: Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015.
- Maternity leave: Maternity Protection Act 1994 and 2004.
- Health & safety: Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005.
- Notice periods: Minimum Notice & Terms of Employment Acts 1973-2005.
- Working time and annual leave: Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.
- Termination of employment: Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 – 2015.
- Employment of foreign nationals: Employment Permits Acts 2003 – 2014.
Protect your business with employment contracts
As the vast majority of employment legislation protects employees, it is vital that you have strong contracts of employment in place to protect your interests.
The employment contract needs to be tailored to your business. If you need employees to be available for shift or weekend work, for example, you must take care to include relevant clauses in your contract of employment.
Best practice also dictates you attach relevant HR policies to your employment contract that clearly explain policies and procedures governing issues. Such as:
- Disciplinary matters.
- Lodging a grievance.
- Standards of behaviour.
- E-mail usage.
- Social media restrictions.
It’s vital to have up-to-date HR policies in place that are relevant to your business.
When an employment relationship becomes strained, a well-drafted employment contract and policies will allow you to protect your interests and defend any claims that arise.
Need more information?
If you would like further complimentary advice from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 1890 252 923.