The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 was passed into Irish statute law in December 2018 and becomes the law of the land from March 2019. What’s it about and why should employers and employees familiarise themselves with its key provisions.
It is a short and simple piece of legislation, but does pack a punch and has some significant impact of certain sectors and types of employments in Ireland. Here are its top line provisions and key objectives. Overall hard to argue with any of it.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT
From next month onwards all new hires will have a right to receive written notification of 5 key terms of employment, within the first 5 days of employment. Employers are now obliged to provide same within this new shorter timeframe. These terms relate to clarity around who the employer is and in particular what the contracted work hours are, daily and weekly. This obligation is new and is in addition to the existing requirement to provide written notification of 15 key terms of employment within the first 2 months of employment, as is already law. Failure to comply allows the employee seek compensation via the WRC and opens the employer to fines and/or imprisonment.
ZERO HOUR CONTRACTS
These are now effectively banned with only a few minor exceptions. These exceptions deal with situations where emergency cover is required at short notice. Industry should now no longer use these type of contracts and where they exist seek to normalise them to meet the new compliance landscape. Minimum payments and guaranteed contracted hours baselines are now introduced as protection against the use of same.
This new piece of Irish employment legislation introduces the concept of banded hour contracts. It guarantees the employee on one of these banded hour contracts, payment for at least the minimum hours associated with the band, if actual hours worked do not reach this level. There is a range of bands with different hours associated within each band. Employees can now make a claim to be covered by one of these bands, if their average hours over the last 12 months fall into this bracket. They can make a claim from day 1 of this legislation becoming law, as they are allowed average over a 12 month period prior to the legislation commencement. Employers will need to review existing contracts and actual employee hours worked to assess if they need to adjust payments to reflect this new reality.
Employers who violate the requirements imposed via this new law, will be subject to fines of up to €5k and or imprisonment of up to 12 months. Pretty severe penalties, not to be taken lightly. These fines will be administered via the Circuit Courts.
Employees can claim 4 weeks compensation where an employer is found in breach via the WRC and importantly can also claim up to 2 years remuneration compensation, where an employer is found to have penalised any employee who takes such a claim.
This new bill, the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018, becomes a statute act from March 1st this year, less than one month from now. I would advise all employers to review their employment contracts and just as importantly ensure they have robust mechanisms, for easily and accurately recording actual hours worked across their employee population.
If you receive an employee claim under its provisions, are you comfortable you can defend it successfully?.