The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2018 has updated the Organisation of Working Time Act to provide employees with a statutory entitlement to a “banded hours” contract in certain circumstances. It is contractual entitlement for employees to work within a set range of hours for the next 12 months, calculated by averaging out the hours worked during the previous 12 months.
There are certain sectors in which experience shows that employees’ contracts do not reflect the hours actually worked. By way of example, the hospitality sector would historically be seasonal in nature with employees potentially working full time during busy summer months, with limited hours during the winter months. Over the years, and prior to Covid, the “season” extended, and regularly employees would work full time on a year-round basis, but hold a contract requiring working hours at a much lower level.
As announced in April, employees now have the right to request to work from home under the National Remote Working Strategy. Ibec and Isme both said that the proposals due to come into force this year to allow people to work from home would place extra burdens on businesses as they emerge from the pandemic. Ibec have noted that if homes were designated as workplaces, employers would be required to inspect them to make sure they met legal standards and did not breach data protection or commercial confidentiality rules.
The full impact of such legislation remains to be seen but employers will have to keep a close eye on any new legislation to ensure they are compliant.
A new Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect (the "Code") has been published to provide practical guidance for employers and employees to agree working arrangements, appropriate to their business, that maintain clear boundaries between work and leisure.
The three key changes are:
a) The right of an employee to avoid routinely performing work outside normal working hours;
b) The right to protection from penalisation for refusing to work outside of normal working hours; and
c) The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).
As the country prepares to reopen in the coming months, a hot topic is the legality of requiring your staff to have the Covid-19 vaccination in order to return to the workplace. At present, there is no legislation that requires persons to vaccinate specifically for the purpose of returning to the workplace. There are a few exceptions where an employer can require staff members to vaccinate but these are limited to healthcare and possibly childcare environments.
There Is however, a framework you may follow to ensure your staff are safely following the best advice as per public health guidelines. The first step in this is to open the conversation with your staff members about their intention to vaccinate. This allows the employer to assess what percentage of employees intend on getting vaccinated. For employees who are unsure or do not wish to vaccinate, consider implementing procedures that best support the vaccination process.
It was announced in Budget 2021 that Parents Leave will be increased from 2 weeks to 5 weeks per parent in respect of children born on or after 1st of November 2019. The period during which this leave can be taken has been extended from 12 months to 24 months so it can be taken up to a child’s second birthday or within two years following adoption. This measure will be available from April 2021.