Síobhra Rush Linda Hynes July 6 2022 Ireland employment: mid-year round-up Lewis Silkin LLP | Employment & Immigration - Ireland Síobhra Rush, Linda Hynes Employment & Immigration Hybrid, remote and flexible workingDiversity and inclusionPay equityFamily rightsESGPlatform workersHealth and safetyThis article provides an overview of some of the leading developments in employment law in Ireland.Hybrid, remote and flexible workingAcross the world, the closure of offices during the pandemic accelerated the expansion and popularity of remote working, making this arrangement an overnight reality for millions. As it becomes clear that working patterns and preferences have changed for good, many jurisdictions have or are putting in place legislation and guidance to manage a more permanent transition to remote or hybrid working arrangements.In Ireland, flexible and remote working has been a focus for both the courts and the legislature. A case heard by the Workplace Relations Commission clarified that, while there is no general right to work from home, employers will be expected to consider remote working requests thoroughly, and to have strong reasonable grounds for refusing to facilitate them. The absence of a legislative framework for handling such a request is set to change, with the publication of the Right to Request Remote Working Bill earlier this year. This will give employees with six months' service the right to request remote working. This is subject to the employer's agreement, but refusal must be based on one of the reasons listed in the legislation. The Bill has come under a lot of criticism so it's likely to be significantly amended before it is finalised.Flexible working requests from parents or carers will soon be backed up by law as a result of a new bill to enable those with caring responsibilities to request flexible working arrangements for a set period of time. This is to implement the EU Work-Life Balance Directive. Separate proposals to allow all employees to make flexible working requests are also in place.Diversity and inclusionHarassmentIreland has implemented a new code of practice on sexual harassment. It does not create new obligations but promotes best practice, such as recommending employers adopt and publish policies to ensure harassment-free workplaces and deal effectively with complaints. It encourages training for employees on preventing sexual harassment. It also highlights the position of vulnerable workers who may need additional measures.Ireland has also adopted a new code of practice on preventing workplace bullying. It is more onerous on employers and is more emphatic about recommending mediation to employees as a potential route to resolve issues. Failure to abide by the code is not illegal but can be used in evidence before the Workplace Relations Commission.Sex and other protected characteristicsIn Ireland, proposals are in place regarding the regulation of gender balance on the boards and governing councils of corporate bodies – the proposal is for a 40% quota for female representation on company boards.Pay equityIreland will be the next major country in Europe to roll out gender pay gap reporting legislation. From 2022, employers in Ireland will be required to publish the gender pay and bonus gap for the workforce as a whole, their views on what is causing any gap and plans for closing it. Gaps must be calculated using 12 months' data up to June and then published by December. The new requirements will initially apply to organisations with 250 or more employees, dropping to 50 employees in 2025. Ireland also has a new code of practice on equal pay.Family rightsIn April 2021, both parents became entitled to an additional three weeks' paid parent's leave, increasing by a further two weeks in July 2022 (to a total of seven weeks) and changes to adoption leave saw couples able to choose which parent takes leave. More recently, the proposed Worklife Balance Bill (in place to implement the EU Work-Life Balance Directive) looks set to extend maternity leave entitlement to transgender men and significantly increase the length of time employees are entitled to paid time off or reduced hours for the purposes of breastfeeding. There are also proposed new rights for parents and carers to request flexible working (as covered above).ESGESG was originally a concept used by investors to assess sustainability but has rapidly come to define the latest area of focus for companies trying to do business responsibly. Legislation is now also being targeted at this area, especially within the European Union.Whistleblowing is now considered part of the ESG agenda. All EU countries were required to implement the provisions of the new EU Whistleblower Directive into their national legal systems by 17 December 2021. The Directive provides EU-wide protection for individuals who blow the whistle about infringements of certain EU laws, including in the areas of public procurement, financial services, money laundering, product safety, environmental protection and data privacy.Ireland already has existing whistleblower protection in place but the proposed legislation to implement the EU Whistleblowing Directive is set to expand the protected disclosures regime. For example, as a result of the changes required by the Directive, it is likely that protection will be extended to shareholders, volunteers, members of the administrative, management or supervisory body of an undertaking (eg, non-executive directors) and applicants for employment.Platform workersThe deadline for EU member states to implement the EU Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive falls in August 2022. The Directive includes various provisions, including a right to request more predictable and secure working conditions and a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice. These new rights are aimed at all types of casual and intermittent workers, not just those working for platforms, but signify the EU's ongoing wish for a legislative framework that keeps up with new ways of working.The Directive, however, applies only to those who are classified as working for an employer rather than those who are correctly classified as self-employed. Whether people working through platforms in the gig economy fall on the employment or the self-employment side of the line is a question that continues to absorb court time in Ireland, across Europe and beyond. Ireland has not yet introduced draft legislation to implement the Directive. Health and safetyOne of the legacies of the pandemic will be the spotlight it has shone on the adequacy of sick pay. Even though covid-19 measures have been withdrawn, sickness levels remain high in some countries as the virus remains in wide circulation. Ireland is introducing statutory sick pay in a phased transition over four years, beginning with three days in 2022 and rising to 10 days in 2026.For further information on this topic please contact Síobhra Rush or Linda Hynes at Lewis Silkin Ireland by telephone (+353 1566 9876) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Lewis Silkin Ireland website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.