Yes, it’s tough.
Being an employer in Ireland is difficult because there is a huge body of employment law which places onerous obligations on the employer.
In fact, many small employers think the deck is stacked against them.
They see reports in the media about employees getting payouts for a wide range of claims.
The bottom line it there are some key areas of danger for you as an employer.
Get it wrong and you will be on the wrong side of a claim. This will cost you time and money, and let’s face it: time is money. Time not spent on your business is wasted.
Lets take a look at some of the most common potential pitfalls for employers. All these areas give rise to claims on a regular basis and a trip to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or Labour Court.
Key areas of concern for an Irish employer
1) The Contract of employment
This is a critical area to get right from the outset and to prevent problems arising in the future. Watch out for implied terms as well as the express terms you agree with your employee. (See contract of employment for more information)
2) Payment of wages
The Payment of Wages act 1991 governs the payment of wages by an employer to the employee.
3) Time and leave entitlements
This area covers rest periods, sickness of the employee as well as holiday entitlements and maternity periods and is an area of friction between employer and employee. The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 and various EU directives have a lot to say in this area. See also how to calculate holiday entitlements.
4) Discrimination and equality in the place of work
This is another huge area of law with rights and entitlements arising from the Constitution, EU directives and our own Irish legislation such as Employment Equality Acts.
Many employers get caught out, not by direct discrimination but, by indirect discrimination.
5) Health and safety
Health and safety law places some very serious obligations on the employer and there are common law obligations as well as statutory obligations. Breaches of health and safety law can lead to criminal convictions for you as an employer.
6) Transfer of undertakings
This covers situations where one business buys another in which there are employees. The Transfer of Undertakings Directive govern this area.
7) Unfair dismissals
Need I say more? This area also covers constructive dismissals and has proven to be an area of considerable cost and expense to employers. A necessary line of defence in relation to claims for unfair dismissal is good grievance and disciplinary procedures which follow best practice.
If you wish to make an employee redundant it had better be a proper redundancy and the procedure for choosing an employee for redundancy must be fair and non-discriminatory. Read more about redundancy law here.
9) Trade union recognition/disputes
The above are broad areas of employment law which commonly lead to costly mistakes and expense for you as an employer if not handled correctly. You might be interested in further employment law articles which spell out some common misconceptions and mistakes that cost employers in Ireland.
10) NERA Ireland
Getting ready for a NERA inspection can be time consuming and expensive if you do not follow some essential steps to ensure you are compliant as an employer. Learn more about the work of NERA and take a look at the handy employers’ check list.
11) Part time Employees’ Working Conditions
Not understanding the protections that part time employees enjoy is also something that many employers overlook or take for granted. Learn about part time employees’ rights here.
12) Fixed Term Contracts
Fixed term contracts and the danger of a contract of indefinite duration (CID) arising against the employer’s wishes is quite common also. Learn more about fixed term contracts here.
13) Changing the Contract of Employment
The employer needs to be aware of what he/she can and cannot do when it comes to altering the terms and conditions of the contract of employment.
Always seek the advice of a legal professional, and don’t leave it too late if you wish to ensure you do not leave your business exposed to costly employment related claims.
The few bob you spend getting advice early in the day may turn out to be money well spent.