The Statutory Penalties for Breaches of Employment Law in Ireland

Are you aware of the range of penalties that are set down in legislation in Ireland for breaches of employment law?

There is a large number of statutes/acts dealing with all aspects of employment law in Ireland. These acts cover overnighting from unfair dismissal to working time to payment of wages to health and safety to annual leave and rest breaks, etc.

In addition to these penalties and employee can always go to the Civil Courts for common law claims such as breach of contract, personal injury, negligence, health and safety breaches, breach of constitutional rights, etc. That is another day’s work.

This piece is going to look at the penalties and redress for employees as set out in statute, that is, the various acts on the statute book.

Regardless of whether you are an employer or employee, you should find it useful.

Unfair Dismissal/Constructive Dismissal

The redress is set out in section 7, Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977, and in summary comprises

  1. Reinstatement or
  2. Reengagement or
  3. Compensation of up to 104 weeks’ remuneration in respect of the financial loss due to the dismissal.

If there is no financial loss an employee can be awarded 4 weeks’ remuneration.

Working Time/Rest Breaks

The penalties are set out in section 27, Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997:

  1. Require the employer to comply with the relevant provision of the act
  2. Compensation of up to 2 years’ remuneration.

Written Terms of Employment

Failure to provide a written statement of terms and conditions of employment within 2 months of starting can be punished as set out in section 7 of the Terms of Employment (Information) Act, 1994.

The WRC adjudicator can order the employer to give the statement to the employee and can award up to 4 weeks’ remuneration by way of compensation.

Protected Disclosures/Whistleblowing

The Protected Disclosures Act, 2014 provides severe penalties in section 11 for dismissal of an employee for making a protected disclosure:

  • 260 weeks (5 years) remuneration

The employee can also bring a tort action for having suffered detriment as a result of making a protected disclosure, as set out in section 13, Protected Disclosures Act, 2014, and can seek an order from the Circuit Court as set out in section 11 of the act preventing dismissal prior to the determination of a claim for unfair dismissal.

Payment of Wages

Section 6, Payment of Wages act, 1991 sets out the penalties for breaches of the act. These include

  • Compensation of the net amount of the wages which would have been paid the previous week prior to the deduction/non payment or
  • Twice the net amount of wages that would have been paid to the employee in the week immediately preceding the deduction or payment

Minimum Notice

Compensation can be awarded pursuant to Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act, 1973: “may award to the employee compensation for any loss sustained by him by reason of the default of the employer.”

Agency Workers

Penalties for breach of Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012 are set out in schedule 2 of the Act. It states that the WRC can order rectification of whatever breach of the act is proved, including reengagement or reinstatement, and/or order compensation of up to 2 years’ remuneration be paid to the employee.

Adoptive Leave, Carer’s Leave, Parental Leave

Breach of the adoptive leave provisions of the Adoptive Leave Act, 1995 can see compensation of up to 20 weeks’ remuneration awarded to the employee, or the WRC making whatever directive order it feels is expedient in the circumstances.

Carer’s leave: a WRC adjudicator can award a grant of carer ’ s leave to the employee of such length to be taken at such time or times and in such manner as the adjudication officer may specify, and/or up to 26 weeks’ compensation.(Carer’s Leave Act, 2001).

Parental Leave and Force Majeure Leave:  an adjudicator can award (a) the grant to the employee of parental leave of such length to be taken at such time or times and in such manner as may be so specified, and/or compensation of up to 20 weeks’ remuneration.(Parental Leave Act, 1998).

Maternity leave: breaches of the employees entitlement can lead to an award of compensation of up to 20 weeks’ remuneration and or grant of the leave to which the employee is entitled.(Maternity Protection act, 1994).

Transfer of Undertakings

Complaints about breaches of S.I. No. 131/2003 – European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003 can lead to compensation being awarded depending on which regulation has been breached.

The compensation can range from a maximum of 4 weeks’ remuneration to 2 years’ remuneration.

Part Time Workers

The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, 2001 is the relevant act for part time workers.

It provides that the WRC adjudicator can require the employer to comply with the relevant provision and/or award 2 years’ remuneration to the employee.

Fixed Term Workers

The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 is the relevant act for fixed term workers. Section 14 of the revised act provides the WRC adjudicator can:

(b) require the employer to comply with the relevant provision,

(c) require the employer to reinstate or reengage the employee (including on a contract of indefinite duration), or

(d) require the employer to pay to the employee compensation of such amount (if any) as the adjudication officer considers just and equitable having regard to all of the circumstances, but not exceeding 2 years ’ remuneration in respect of the employee ’ s employment.

Redundancy

The Redundancy Payments Act, 1967, section 7 sets out the employee’s right to a redundancy payment. Section 39 allows you to appeal the amount you have been awarded.

The Protection of Employment Act, 1977 also obliges the employer to inform and consult with employees in a collective redundancy situation. Section 11 of the Act sets out the penalties for the employer’s failure to consult and notify: a fine of up to €5,000 on summary conviction in respect of a breach of section 9 or section 10.

Discrimination and Equality Based Claims

Breaches of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 can see redress being ordered pursuant to section 82 of the Employment Equality Act, 1998:

Various orders including for re-engagement, re-instatement or compensation of up to 2 years’ remuneration or €40,000, whichever is the greater.

€13,000 can be awarded in contravention of the law in relation to a discriminatory claim in relation to access to employment.

Equal Status Acts Breaches

Equal status breaches can be penalised in accordance with the Equal Status Act, 2000. This protects you in relation to discrimination in respect of the supply of goods or services.

The maximum amount that can be awarded is the amount of the District Court limit in civil cases in contract (€15,000).

Minimum Wages

The National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 protects employees in relation to minimum wage rates. Complaints can be dealt with under section 26 of the act. The adjudication officer can order that the shortfall be rectified and paid to the employee, and the employee can also be awarded reasonable costs in respect of bringing the claim.

The employer can also be prosecuted in the District Court for breaches of this minimum wage act.

Health and Safety

Breaches of the Safety Health and Welfare Act 2005 can see an adjudication officer awarding compensation of such amount as he feels equitable in the circumstances for breach of section 27 of the act, which protects employees from penalisation or dismissal for making a complaint in respect of health and safety in the workplace.

Conclusion

The list above is not definitive, but certainly covers the most common types of employment law claim that will be brought to the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission), or Labour Court. A WRC adjudicator has a wide range of discretion for breaches of any particular act, so the various acts referred to above set out the maximum awards possible.

Discrimination and Equality Based Claims in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)

equality in workplac

There are 9 grounds of discrimination recognised in Irish law:

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race (includes race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins)
  • Membership of the travelling community.

If your claim to the WRC cannot be based on one of these grounds you may have been treated unfairly or harshly or rudely or appallingly badly, but you have not been discriminated against.

If you have a discrimination based claim it may be one of the following:

  1. You have been discriminated against by an employer, potential employer, employment agency, or other body
  2. You have not received equal pay because of one or more of the 9 grounds (if your equal pay complaint cannot be based on a discriminatory ground you have no claim for discrimination as there is nothing unlawful about paying a different rate of pay for the same work)
  3. The Pensions Act, 1980 prohibits discrimination in respect of occupational pensions-you may not have been allowed to join an occupational pension of have been treated less favourably
  4. An employment agreement contains a provision which is discriminatory, contrary to sections 8 and 9 of the Employment Equality Act, 1998
  5. The Equal Status Acts 2000-2008 allows a discriminatory claim to be brought against a person or company who supplies goods or services or facilities.

Claims from 1 to 4 above are commenced by filling out a form, EE2, which you send to the person who you claim has discriminated against you. They reply on form EE3. If they don’t reply inferences can be drawn from this.

Once you have received their response you can then decide whether to bring a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) under the Employment Equality acts.

Claims Under Equal Status Acts

Not a lot of people know this..

Most people think the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission) only deals with employment and/or industrial relations issues.

That’s not the case, at all.

The Workplace Relations Commission also deals with complaints about discrimination in the provision of goods and services, accommodation, and access to education under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015.

Discrimination in the context of employment has 9 grounds of discrimination. But under equality legislation there is now 10 grounds of discrimination, thanks to the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015, which created a 10th ground in respect of housing assistance.

The main thrust of the Equal Status acts is to prevent discrimination in relation to the provision of all services, including entertainment, banking, transport, travel, insurance, and more.

The 10 grounds of discrimination covered by the Equal Status acts are

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Race/colour/nationality
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Membership of the travelling community
  • Disability
  • Housing assistance in relation to the provision of residential accommodation

How to Make a Complaint to the WRC

The first thing you must do is to complete and send a form-ES1-which is a notification in writing to the person/company who you are complaining about. This form must specify the act of alleged discrimination and must be received by the other party within 2 months’ of the incident.

The other party does not have to respond, but if he chooses to do so may use form ES2.

If the other party ignores you and does not respond within 1 month, or you are not happy with the reply, you can then refer the complaint to the WRC for adjudication. This referral must be made within 6 months of the alleged discrimination.

In due course an adjudication hearing will be heard and both parties can put their side of the story forward and the adjudicator will make a decision.

Equal Status Acts in Ireland

The relevant legislation is:

  • The Equal Status Act, 2000
  • The Equality Act, 2004
  • The Equal Status (Amendment) Act, 2012
  • The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2015.

The Law Reform Commission has published a consolidated version of the Equal Status Acts which you can access here.