New Employment Laws in Ireland

The year 2020 bought crucial changes to the employment laws in Ireland. These have impacted the workplace, ensuring employee safety, and are set to erase discrimination. New updates include work-life balance provisions, employment record-keeping, legal representation, and more.
Work-Life Balance
Back in 2019, the EU Parliament passed an EU Directive on work-life balance. While Ireland already follows most proposed rights on parental leave and paternity leave, employees can now request flexible and remote working arrangements. Employees in Ireland must adjust their policies to include recent changes to parental leaves and the introduction of a two-week paid parent’s leave policy.

Cost of Employment
The cost of employing staff was meant to rise in 2020. In January 2020, the employer’s PRSI increased from 10.95% to 11.05%. The national minimum wage in Ireland also saw an increase from 9.80 euros to 10.10 euros.
The latter will adequately come into effect when the outcome of Brexit negotiations becomes more apparent.

Employment Records
All employers received a warning from the Court of Justice of the European Union to ensure that they keep an “objective, reliable, and accessible system” to record the time each employee works in their company.
According to WRC inspectors, the most regular breach of employment legislation was failure to update employment records.

Employees with Disabilities
In 2019, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to accommodate employees with disabilities. These guidelines were provided because of the long-running case of Marie Daly v Nano Nagle School. Emphasis was put on helping those with disabilities. It commanded that if an employee cannot undertake his employment duties completely, even after considerable accommodation, he should be tended to instead of discriminated.

The court recognizes that this might result in a financial burden on the employer if new needs were to be accommodated to the extent that a disabled employee starts doing a completely different job than his job description. To avoid situations like these, the court has given employers individual charge of the situation to decipher the facts of each case before making a decision.

Legal Representation
In November 2019, the Supreme Court passed a ruling that employees do not have the right to involve legal representation in internal workplace matters. In McKelvey v Irish Rail, the court decided that to justify the involvement of lawyers, an employee would have to provide proof of an “exceptional” case. This decision was passed regarding the employee, Mr. McKelvey, who benefited from the representation of an “experienced trade union official.” In case an employee in a non-unionized business calls for legal representation, the facts of his case must be thoroughly reviewed before allowing a legal procedure.

Maternity Leave
The Workplace Relations Commission revealed that statistics showed gender discrimination in the workplace. This was because employers refused to comply with the rules surrounding the return to work policy after maternity leave, even though women reserve the right of return through maternity protection legislation.

Approximately 1/5th of the Irish labor force is aged over 55. Lately, older workers have expressed a desire to continue working beyond the conventional retirement age. Employers are instructed to justify retirement ages objectively to avoid age discrimination. Transparent retirement policies must be adopted in line with the Code of Practice on Longer Working, and all employees must be made aware of any changes.

To read about how COVID-19 has impacted construction in Ireland, click here.

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