How to Make an Employment Related Claim

unfair dismissal

Had enough?

Are you at breaking point?

Are you considering bringing a claim against your employer?

Are you unsure of the procedure and what to do?

Are you worried about legal costs?

By the end of this piece, I hope you will have a well informed grasp of what’s involved and what you need to consider.

The 1st thing you must do

Before deciding to bring a claim against your employer, there is one thing you must do.

You must raise your issue internally in your workplace. This will involve using the grievance procedure in use in your employment.

Because when you go to a Rights Commissioner hearing or an Employment Appeals Tribunal or any other venue, including Court, it will help your case enormously that you have tried to sort out the problem in the workplace.

You simply must give the employer the opportunity to put right what you say is wrong. Even if he doesn’t, and you know he won’t, it is strongly advisable to make your best efforts to sort out the problem.

Because later, if you do bring a claim, you will appear to have been the reasonable one and mainly concerned with having the difficulty sorted out, not making a claim.

Where can you bring your claim?

There are three types of venue to bring a claim:

  1. the specialist employment related forums such as the Rights Commissioner Service and the Employment Appeals Tribunal (this is set to change in October, 2015 with the Workplace Relations Act coming into law)
  2. Civil Court, for example the District Court, Circuit Court or High Court
  3. the Equality Tribunal.

The EAT and Rights Commissioner service can hear most employment related claims, and, for many claims you have a choice of which one to use.

The Rights Commissioner service is the bottom rung of the ladder and is probably the least intimidating place to bring a claim. One Rights Commissioner sitting alone at the head of a table hears the complaint with the parties sitting both sides of the table to present their case.

This service is designed to be informal and not at all intimidating.

The EAT hearing is a bit more formal with 3 people sitting to hear the complaint. The Chairperson will be a barrister or solicitor appointed to the Tribunal by Government; there will also be an employer representative from a body such as IBEC, and an employee representative from a trade union.

Civil Courts might be chosen in certain circumstances:

  • where you are bring a case for breach of contract or wrongful dismissal
  • where your claim is for a non physical personal injury such as stress (you would have brought this the Injuries Board in the first place but they tend not to deal with non physical injury cases and simply authorise you to bring your claim in Court by way of legal proceedings)
  • gender discrimination claims can go straight to the Circuit Court

The Equality Tribunal deals with all forms of discrimination in the workplace and they will be your 1st port of call if you are claiming that you have suffered discrimination in your job. Bear in mind that your discrimination must be on one of 9 grounds.

The 9 grounds are

  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race/colour/nationality/ethnic or national origins
  • Membership of the travelling community.

The procedure and the 1 form you will need

The vast majority of employment related claims will start by the filling out of the Workplace Relations Complaint Form. You can access this form here on the Workplace Relations website.

The form can be filled in and submitted online. It will ask you for your details, the details of your employer, your complaint, what legislation you are claiming under and some other relevant details.

You should receive an acknowledgment of receipt of your complaint immediately once you have submitted the form. However you could be waiting 12-18 months for a hearing date.

It’s during this time that some efforts may be made to settle the dispute. This can occur by the Workplace Relations Early Resolutions service contacting the parties or by the parties themselves, perhaps through their solicitors, trying to settle the problem.

How much will it cost?

When you go to Court, the winner takes all.

By this I mean that if you win your case, the other side will almost certainly be ordered to pay your costs (as well as their own).

That’s not the case in employment cases at the EAT or Rights Commissioner service-each side pays their own costs.

So, how much will you have to pay? Well, it depends on how much time goes into preparing your case, how much time is spent at the hearing, whether counsel is instructed, and so on.

You should discuss this aspect of your case at the outset with your solicitor. He should be able to give you a good idea, but it will only be an estimate.

The difficulty in giving you exact figures lies the the huge difference between cases. For example, a half hour hearing with a Rights Commissioner over a very straightforward issue compared to a complex case involving counsel before the Employment Appeals Tribunal over a number of days will incur wildly different costs.

Enforcing decisions-what happens next?

If you are successful and win a positive decision, then the employer has 6 weeks within which to implement it. If he fails to do so you can make a complaint to another body in order to have your decision enforced.

A Rights Commissioner decision can be referred to the Labour Court for confirmation of the original decision. Once the Labour Court confirms it you can go to the Circuit Court for a Court Order which can be enforced against the employer.

An EAT decision can also be enforced through the Circuit Court with an order for payment being made.

How to decide what to do next

Deciding to bring a claim is a big decision.

It’s not easy, and the consequences of bringing one and losing, or winning, can be enormous.

You don’t have to suffer in silence though, or say nothing and stand idly by if your rights are being ignored or trampled upon. But you do have to be sure that you have a good chance of success and you do need to know whether there is, in fact, a breach of your rights.

Weigh up the pros and cons carefully. Don’t let your heart rule your head.

I know it’s difficult for you to be dispassionate about your problem, especially if going to work every day is a heavy chore. But you do need to have a good idea of the chances of success.

Friends and family mean well and don’t want to see you suffer.

So, before you do anything, get the best professional advice you can to give you a voice and ensure that your employment rights are upheld.

 

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The 6 Principal Causes of Action in Employment Related Claims

employment-appeals-tribuna

There is a huge number of ways for an employee to bring a claim against the employer. But the Employment Appeals Tribunal report for 2012 tells us the top 6 categories of claim.

This piece will look at those 6 categories and give you some pointers to reduce the chances of a successful claim against you.

Before we look at the top sources of pain for employers do note that the average payout for a successful claim in 2012 was €18,519.84 so taking steps to reduce the chances of successful claims is time and money well spent.

The 6 causes of action of cases brought to the Employment Appeals Tribunal in 2012 were:

1.      Unfair dismissal.

This would also include constructive dismissal-where the employee quits because of the “intolerable conduct/behaviour” of the employer.

Constructive dismissal sees the burden of proof shifting to the employee and it can be a difficult (but not impossible) burden to discharge.

Unfair dismissal on the other hand sees the burden of proof falling on the employer to show that the dismissal was fair and reasonable and, most importantly, fair procedures were followed. There are also 8 grounds on which a dismissal is deemed to be automatically unfair.

Read more about unfair dismissal here.

 

2.      Redundancy

“Sham redundancy” or unfair selection for redundancy would be the principal causes of claims under the redundancy heading.

You can learn more about redundancy in Ireland here.

 

3.      Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment

The notice period for termination of the employment contract should be in the contract itself. If it is not then any notice period must be “reasonable” and in accordance with the minimum notice periods set out in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act, 1973.

 

4.      Payment of Wages Act, 1991

Payment of Wages claims tend to fall into a number of categories including:

  • Non payment of wages
  • Unlawful deductions from wages
  • Non payment of minimum wage rates.

You can learn more about the payment of wages legislation here.

 

5.      Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997

Claims under this heading would tend to be for non payment of holiday entitlements, failure to allow proper rest breaks, failure to give the employee their public holiday entitlements, and failure to keep proper records.

You can learn more about organisation of working time act claims here.

 

6.      Terms of Employment (Information) Acts

This claim, and it is a common one, is because of the failure of the employer to give the employee a written statement of certain terms and conditions of employment within 2 months of commencing employment.

When the relationship breaks down and there is a claim made against employer, this is also a common one to throw into the mix.

The employer can have a month’s salary awarded against him/her for failure to give a statement to an employee. There is really no excuse for this and it is such an easy to avoid claim that it is a shame to see employers wasting money paying out for this omission.

You can learn more about how to draft an employment contract here.

 

So, there you have it. If you are an employer and you pay particular attention to these 6 areas, you will reduce the chances of any claim being brought against you.

And even if such a claim is brought, you will have increased your chances of a successful defence greatly by taking some sensible precautions in the 6 areas outlined above.

7 Simple Steps For Employers to Avoid Costly Employment Law Claims from Employees

employment-tribunals-ireland

It’s an easy mistake to make.

If you are an employer you are in danger of leaving yourself wide open to expensive claims by your employees if you fail to follow some basic but essential steps in your employment relationship with your employees.

In addition to settling successful claims brought by employees you also run the risk of fines and other sanctions from the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) which has a dedicated unit, the Prosecution Services Unit, which can refer cases to the Chief State Solicitors Office for prosecution.

There is a wide body of employment legislation in force in Ireland which can be confusing for many employers.

In addition some industries have their own industry specific agreements called registered employment agreements (REA) and minimum wage rates. It is worth noting that these registered employment agreements are binding on all parties once registered with the Labour Court.

UPDATE May 2013

The Supreme Court, in May 2013, ruled that registered employment agreements are unconstitutional. You will find more updated information about registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders here.

Minimum requirements in employment law

1. Written statement of certain terms and conditions of employment

This statement must be given to the employee within two months of commencing employment.

The relevant act is the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 which sets out the basic information that an employee is entitled to be given in writing about their contract of employment. You need to be careful that you provide the additional information set out in the revised act, which is

( fa ) a reference to any registered employment agreement or employment regulation order which applies to the employee and confirmation of where the employee may obtain a copy of such agreement or order, ]

F6 [ (g) the rate or method of calculation of the employee ’ s remuneration and the pay reference period for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000,

( ga ) that the employee may, under section 23 of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000, request from the employer a written statement of the employee ’ s average hourly rate of pay for any pay reference period as provided in that section,

You need to be aware of statutory instrument S.I. No. 49/1998 – Terms of Employment (Additional Information) Order, 1998, which provides that you must give the employee a statement in writing containing particulars of the times and duration of the rest periods and breaks referred to in sections 11, 12 and 13 of the Act (The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997.)

2. Written statement of pay

The Payment of Wages Act, 1991 obliges the employer to give a written statement of wages and deductions at the time of payment. Learn more about payment of wages here.

3. The minimum wage

There are exceptions to the minimum wage in Ireland of €8.65 per hour but most adults will be entitled to it; in addition certain industries have their own higher minimum wage. Learn more about minimum wage rates.

4. Maximum hours worked

Employers must keep records of hours worked by employees to ensure compliance with the maximum working week average of  48 hours which may be calculated over a 4, 6 or 12 month period depending on the industry. Learn more about working time and rest breaks here.

5. Working time and breaks

The breaks to which employees are entitled are set out in the Organization of Working Time Act, 1997. Currently break entitlements are 15 minutes per four and a half hours work and a 30 minute break for six hours worked.

6. Holiday entitlements

Holiday entitlements are also covered in the Organization of Working Time Act, 1997. In general full time workers are entitled to four  paid weeks holidays per year with part timers being entitled to similar holidays on a pro rata basis depending on hours worked which equates to one third of a week per month worked. (Learn more about how to calculate holiday entitlements.)

7. Minimum notice of termination of employment

The minimum notice periods are set out in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2001 and depend on the length of service with the minimum regardless of service being 1 week.

Conclusion

Employers can save themselves the considerable costs in money and time involved in defending or otherwise dealing with claims by their employees by some prudent management and housekeeping.

The list above is not exhaustive, but if you took care of those 7 areas you would be in good shape as an employer.

Doing business nowadays can be a worrying enough activity without inviting needless trouble on yourself for the want of a straightforward contract of employment and/or letter of offer and/or statement of your employees’ terms and conditions.

At a minimum you should carry out an audit of your

  • Contracts of employment
  • Staff handbooks
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures
  • All workplace policy documents.

If you don’t have any of the above, you are asking for trouble, especially when there is a dispute or a NERA inspection.