Employment law is constantly evolving and employers have to tread carefully to protect their business from potential risks. The following are 5 common issues to watch out for:
1 - Independent contractors
Engaging “independent contractors” where in reality the relationship is more closely an employer/employee relationship can be costly option for employers. Such a practice should be avoided and can be the source of significant legal, tax and pension exposure down the line. Costly legal exposure can also arise in relation to the inappropriate use of fixed term contracts or agency workers.
2 - Parting company
Ending the employment relationship can be a particularly complex process and employers can make the mistake of not carrying out the process properly. Dismissing an employee in breach of contract or without following fair procedures is a common mistake. Employees have strong legal rights and are entitled to the protection of their good name and reputation. Apart from taking a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission, an employee could apply to the High Court seeking an injunction which could potentially be very costly for an employer to defend – not to mention it could be the source of embarrassing negative publicity. Protect your business by ensuring you are following fair procedures
3 - Employment contracts which are not fit for purpose
Employment contracts need to be regularly updated in particular following promotion or a change of roles. Your contracts should comply with statutory requirements and protect the employer’s commercial interests. For senior employees, the employment contract should have detailed clauses to protect the employer’s:
- confidential information
- intellectual property
They should also have relatively long notice periods and the right to place employees on garden leave during notice. It is also important to consider restrictive covenants to protect against senior employees joining a competitor and taking employees or customers with them.
4 - Retirement
More and more, employees are resisting the mandatory retirement at age 65 – and a compulsory retirement is often challenged as age discrimination under the Employment Equality Act. Employers need to be very clear on retirement age and be able to show an objective basis for seeking to enforce a retirement age.
5 - HR Policies and Procedures
While most employers have policies dealing with discipline, performance management, grievance and dignity at work, there is very often a challenge in implementing such policies fairly and consistently. Very often a performance or disciplinary issue is let go unchecked or the outcome of a disciplinary process is pre-determined from the outset. Also, many employers do not have clear policies on whistleblowing, social media/email usage and data protection including CCTV usage. Employers should regularly update their employment policies in line with the radically changing employment environment and communicate such changes to their employees.
It is important for employers to invest the necessary time and resources at the outset to protect its commercial business interests and comply with its legal obligations under employment law. Contracts and policies should be fit for purpose and tailored for the specific requirements of the business. It is money well spent in the long run.