Last year saw several changes and amendments to employment law and, in the wake of the election, kites are being flown for further changes in the near future. In this article, Tommy Smyth reminds HAI members of some of the key changes already in place and looks at possible future changes.
From 1st January, 2016, the minimum wage for an experienced adult worker in Ireland increased from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour. There are rates below this for under-18 workers and for adult workers with less than two years’ work experience. This is an increase of almost 6% when, anecdotally, employers who are in a position to give wage increases of late, even in unionised environments, are giving between 2% and 3% for between 12- and 24-month periods.
Since 1st August, 2015, employees out on sick leave will continue to accrue Annual Leave entitlements. This has long been on the cards due to a European Courts decision but it has taken some time for our own Organisation of Working Time Act to be amended to reflect this legal decision.
It may mean that employers will actively manage employee absences more efficiently than before to ensure that employees on longer term absences return to work as quickly as possible.
For nearly 10 years, collective bargaining matters have been effectively frozen due to Ryanair’s Supreme Court case which questioned exactly what constituted an employer ‘collectively bargaining’ with its employees. The outgoing Government introduced legislation in late 2015 which has paved the way for Trade Unions to bring non-Union Employers to the Labour Court, which can enforce enhanced terms and conditions on them if it feels that their current terms and conditions are not reasonable when benchmarked with other similar employers.
The Company will always have the right to remain a non-Union Company but the Labour Court can insist they pay Union wages, sick pay, holidays, bonus etc.
An employer which can show it already allows collective bargaining with its employees via an internal mechanism or ‘Excepted Body’ can dispute the Labour Court’s ability to do this, as it can claim it already negotiates with its employees collectively.
This is still a new development and the precedents that emerge over the next few months will be important. Larger employers, who have no Trade Union but possibly have employees who are ‘in the Union’, would be most affected by such a process.
Fathers are going to get two weeks’ statutory leave upon the birth of their child. Employer payment will not be compulsory for these weeks, similar to Maternity Leave, and welfare will likely be available for the Father to claim while off work. This is likely to formally commence in Autumn 2016.
If an employer has employees with no fixed place of employment, e.g., Sales Reps or Delivery Drivers, they may be affected by a decision of the ECJ against Tyco, a Spanish security firm. The ruling related to employees with no fixed commute to their place of work and indicated that travel time to and from work counts as work time.
This could have implications for the wages of such individuals and the time in the morning and evening they start/stop getting paid. This ruling, similar to the annual leave accrual one mentioned above, has been made in Europe but as good EU members we are expected to take it and amend our own laws to ensure this is enshrined. This is another one to keep an eye on!
Anecdotally, private sector employers, where possible, are looking at wage increases of between 1-3% over periods from 12-24 months. Trade Unions seem to be asking for 5% but, following negotiations with employers, are accepting deals in the 2-3% bracket. Of course, it depends on ability to pay but these are the figures that are being reported to our offices.
Tom Smyth is Managing Director of Tom Smyth & Associates, a HR consultancy, established in 1991, that, in association with HAI, gives Irish employers practical advice on HR, industrial relations and employment law issues.
This Business Support article featured in the March/April 2016 edition of The Hardware Journal.