New paternity leave entitlement: From September 2016, fathers will be entitled to take two weeks’ paid paternity leave on the birth of a child. Statutory paternity pay will be paid by the State at the same rate as statutory maternity pay.
(1) Update family leave policies to include a new policy on paternity leave.
(2) Tell staff about the change.
(3) Budget for the cost associated with fathers taking leave.
Holiday and sickness
Accrual of holiday during sick leave: Employees can now accrue annual leave during periods of certified sick leave, subject to certain limitation periods. Employees are entitled to be paid for any unused accrued leave on termination of employment.
(1) Amend policies on holiday and sick leave.
(2) Review sick employee records in order to budget for the accrual of annual leave.
Victimisation and trade union membership: A new Code of Practice from the Workplace Relations Commission is now in place. It seeks to prevent victimisation on the basis of trade union membership or non-membership.
Action required: Ensure procedures are in place to prevent victimisation on this basis.
Powers of the Labour Court to make orders on Collective Bargaining: The Labour Court has been given the power to make legally binding orders regarding terms of employment against employers who do not have collective bargaining arrangements in place, either with trade unions or independent in-house employee forums.
(1) Look to put collective bargaining arrangements in place with trade unions or employee forums.
(2) Examine existing collective bargaining arrangements to establish whether employee forums can be deemed to be independent.
Objectively justified contractual retirement age: Employers will need to demonstrate that any contractual retirement age is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and secondly, that the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary. This new obligation is expected to arise during 2016, but the precise date is not known.
Action required: Where mandatory retirement ages are imposed, ensure there is an objective justification.
Employers will need to exercise caution where they propose to offer fixed-term contracts to employees over the contractual retirement age, as these must also be objectively justified.
Proposal regarding discriminatory advertising: If implemented, individuals will be able to bring a case in relation to discriminatory advertising, provided there is a sufficient link between him/her and the advertising company. Implementation could be scheduled for 2016 but it is uncertain.
Action required: Keep abreast of the development of this proposal.
Workplace Relations Commission
Establishment of the Workplace Relations Commission: The setting up of the WRC changes fully the landscape of employment law claims. The current system will be simplified by providing one single point of entry for employment disputes and one sole route of appeal. This was put into effect in October 2015, but its impact will be more apparent as 2016 progresses.
Action required: Employers should become familiar with the revised format and procedures of the new Workplace Relations Commission.