Recent Developments in Employment Law in Ireland as of June 2021
It’s been a fascinating time in terms of new developments in Irish employment law, throughout Covid and generally. Here we will look at three of the most interesting and significant developments:
Changes to the way hearings are run in the WRC:
The decision of the Supreme Court in Zalewski -v- Adjudication Officer and the WRC, Ireland and the Attorney General 2021 IESC 24, 8 April and 15 April 2021
The Supreme Court held that Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) Officers and Labour Court members are administering justice in the course of their adjudication of most employment and equality claims, in a manner within Article 37 of the Constitution. But it did make two findings in relation to the way that hearings are run;
Hearings should be held in public. The WRC will now hear cases in public and members of the public and media can attend. This applies to all cases being heard after April and not just cases that were initiated after April. For cases heard after 6 April, the decision will not be anonymised.
Giving evidence on Oath – when there is a serious and direct conflict of evidence between the parties in the WRC they must give evidence on Oath.
The Right to Disconnect:
On 1st April 2021, the Code of Practice on the right to disconnect was signed into law, effective immediately. The Code defines the right to disconnect as having three main parts;
A right not to work routinely outside normal working hours.
A right not to be penalised for refusing to work outside normal working hours.
A duty to respect another’s right to disconnect.
What does it mean in reality?
The Code is guidance on best practice to both employers and employees on the right to disconnect. It’s not legally binding but it can be used as evidence in court proceedings.
What should I do now as an employer?
Employers should engage with their employees to develop a right to disconnect policy that addresses things like their ongoing compliance with existing legislation like the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. Any policy should also look at mechanisms for complaints and practical things like email footers to remind employees and customers that there is no requirement to reply out of hours. This should encourage a culture in line with the spirit and ethos of the Code on the right to disconnect.
Parent’s Leave extension:
As of April 2021, the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 2021, allows each parent a total of 5 weeks of parents leave and parents benefit for a child born on or after 1 November 2019. It can be taken up to 2 years from the birth or adoption.
This entitlement is distinct from and should not be confused with Parental Leave, pursuant to the Parental Leave Acts, 1998 to 2019. This entitles parents to 26 weeks unpaid leave which can be taken together or in blocks but there is a certain amount of discretion allowable to the employer in permitting when and how it can be taken. It can to be taken for every child under 12.
What do these new developments mean or signal?
These new developments at 2 and 3 in particular, signal a new change in how the government and employers are looking at working life. These new rights under parents leave coupled with the right to disconnect are all aimed at promoting and encouraging a better work-life balance. Employers should carefully consider the policies they have in place to ensure they are in line with these new developments and the introduction of new and further work-life balance initiatives, codes and policies into the future. The existence of such policies will certainly engender longevity in terms of retaining existing valued employees and will assist with recruitment of new employees for the future.
This article contains general information based on Irish law and does not constitute legal advice nor is it intended to provide a comprehensive or detailed statement of the law.
For advice on any of the above or any employment law queries please contact Theresa Howlett at the details provided below.