Many employees in Ireland suffer greatly at the hands of their employer. Or at the hands of fellow employees through bullying, harassment etc.
A look at some recent decisions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal bears this out:
- a pregnant woman who suffered the loss of her baby by still birth was awarded €72,000 for constructive dismissal (November, 2012);
- a child care worker dismissed for ‘gross misconduct’ was awarded €19,000 for unfair dismissal (November, 2012);
- a FAS community employment scheme employee was held to be unfairly dismissed and the EAT directed his reinstatement.(April, 2013) (You can access the full decisions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal here)
There are 3 significant areas where awards of compensation are regularly made by the Employment Appeals Tribunal:
1. A straightforward unfair dismissal case
The Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977-2007 presume that most dismissals are unfair unless the employer can prove otherwise and that there were substantial grounds for the dismissal. (Read more about unfair dismissals here)
2. Constructive dismissal
This claim occurs when the employee resigns because h/she feels h/she has no other option due to the unreasonable conduct of the employer.
And this conduct may be the failure of the employer to deal with reasonable complaints that the employee makes, failing to take action if the employee suffers from bullying in the workplace, changing the employment contract without the employee’s consent, and being unable to access an impartial grievance procedure.
3. Unfair selection for redundancy
This can occur where the employer fails to consult the employee before selecting for redundancy or where someone else is recruited to fill the position after making the employee redundant.
Other Breaches of Employees’ Rights
There are many other ways for the employer to infringe the employees’ rights.
- Discrimination and Inequality
One of the most important categories of infringement is through discrimination and failing to respect the equality legislation which offers a lot of protection to employees in Ireland.
An employee who suffers from discrimination in the workplace on one (or more) of 9 grounds can bring a case to the Equality Authority which has been known to make generous awards of compensation to the employee.
- Bullying and Harassment
- Breaches of Health and Safety
- Non payment of wages
- Unilateral changes to the employment contract
Employees’ Rights Regularly Breached
- An employee who is victimized for making a complaint about health and safety in the workplace also has a strong case.
- Part time workers are often treated differently to their full time counterparts. This is unlawful.
- Minimum notice periods on the termination of the employment contract are regularly ignored by employers;
- the transfer of a business to a new owner can lead to breaches of the TUPE (transfer of undertakings) regulations;
- holiday pay an holidays are often incorrectly calculated by employers;
- employers often fail to give their employees a statement of the terms of their employment which is in breach of the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994;
- employers regularly fail to give employees a contract of indefinite duration where the employee has been employed on a series of fixed term contracts;
- data protection rights of employees are regularly breached;
- rest periods provided by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 can be breached;
- and even before the employment commences, employers can breach applicants’ rights through their advertising of the position and at interview stage.
Are You Being Bullied at Work?
If you are being bullied at work be either a fellow employee or your employer there are plenty of legal remedies for bullying open to you.
These include a claim for breach of contract, a negligence action, a claim under health and safety legislation, a claim for constructive dismissal if you have left your employment, and a claim under equality law for harassment.
Professional Legal and HR Advice
Many of the breaches of employees’ rights above are nearly understandable, although certainly not excusable, due to the complexity and volume of employment related law in Ireland.
The whole area of employment law can be a minefield.
This is why the employee needs professional legal and human resources advice.
The law changes regularly with new EU directives, regulations, statutory instruments, and more.
Getting legal advice from a properly qualified legal professional with professional indemnity insurance is the easiest, and most important, decision you can take if you are an employee who has a valid claim.
A solicitor with a good knowledge of employment law in Ireland will quickly be able to advise you as to whether your treatment genuinely leaves you with a legal cause of action or not.
Many employees experience poor/shabby treatment in the workplace.
But this does not necessarily mean you have a case.
You can save yourself a lot of time and money by getting a solicitor to take a look at your case first to advise you whether it will be worth your while taking a claim against your employer or not.
A solicitor will also be able to advise you the best venue for your claim and ultimately give you the best chance of a successful outcome.
And remember this: if you were dismissed or left work because you felt you had no option because of ill treatment, your career prospects into the future can be seriously impacted in a negative way.
For example, how do you explain why you cannot put forward your employer as a reference when you go for a new job or how do you explain the gaps in your CV where you left a job under a cloud?
Are You an Employee With a Question?