Are you an employer?
If you are there are many ways you can fall foul of employment legislation in Ireland.
Because there is a huge body of law covering the employment relationship, including common law, statute/legislation, regulations/directives emanating from Europe.
If I was asked what was the one thing you should do to protect yourself as an employer, my advice would be: give your employees a sound, well drafted, legally compliant contract of employment.
Let me explain: the employment relationship is based on contract.
Sure-there is plenty of legislation stipulating the minimum entitlements for employment related issues such as rest periods, holidays, payment of wages, all types of leave such as maternity leave, notice periods, part time employees’ rights, and so on.
But at the end of the day if your contract of employment is sound and drafted for your particular employment, your particular circumstances, you will avoid a lot of stress and heartache.
And most importantly you will greatly reduce the chances of success of a claim against you.
Don’t cut corners here, don’t just do a Google search and copy and paste what you find and use it in your workplace.
You could easily incorporate terms and conditions which would be completely inappropriate for your workplace.
There are a number of reasons for vital importance of your contract of employment.
The most important reason is that the more clarity there is between you and your employee the less chance of misunderstanding and bad feeling, and ultimately less chance of an employment related claim or dispute.
One of the 1st things the parties should inspect closely in the event of a dispute between employee and employer is the contract: what does it say, if anything, about the issue at hand, eg the right to a bonus or annual leave, the obligation to transfer locations, the right of the employer to alter the contract, the right to be paid for overtime, etc.
It is then too late to discover that your contract does not reflect what you intended.
Written statement of certain terms of employment
Another great reason to ensure your employees are given contracts is because it is a legal obligation on the employer.
Failure to do so within two months of the start of employment will leave you open to a claim under the Terms of Employment (Information) Act, 1994.
This claim is an easy one for employees to win because it is simply a fact that you either gave a contract to the employee or not.
If you haven’t you have no defence to such a claim and you are at the mercy of the Rights Commissioner as to what he awards in compensation to the employee, which can be up to 4 weeks remuneration.
What to do now
In addition to the employment contract I would also strongly recommend that you have three policy documents drafted and distributed to your employees:
- A disciplinary policy/procedure
- A grievance policy/procedure
- A dignity at work policy, which deals with harassment, bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination.
These policies, provided they are implemented in the workplace, combined with the contract of employment will ensure you are in a strong position to defend yourself against employment related claims.
But if you are to do only one thing sort out a contract of employment for your staff.