The New Year is an opportune time for employers to review their compliance with statutory obligations under employment legislation and make sure they are equipped to resolve any difficulties in the workplace in 2018.
Here we set out some key areas for employers to consider.
1. Contracts of employment and policies
Employers need to review their contracts and policies regularly to ensure that they are fit for purpose for their organisation and up-to-date with the law. In carrying out such a review, employers should focus on contractual protections to help safeguard confidential information and intellectual property. This will help to protect the organisation’s goodwill and business interests. It is also important to think about policies to help protect the reputation of the organisation in terms of social media, internet usage, data protection and whistleblowing. We look at the importance of having good workplace policies and procedures and provide some helpful tips for employers here.
2. Harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace
This has been one of the hot topics of the latter half of 2017 following allegations in Hollywood and at home which have been widely highlighted in the media. The failure to adequately deal with complaints of harassment or sexual harassment can have a negative effect on the workplace, leading to low morale, reduced productivity and the very real threat of litigation. Having a good Dignity At Work policy in place, communicating this policy to all staff and following its procedures quickly and sensitively, will minimise the adverse effects of such allegations. We recently looked at how employers should deal with such allegations in the workplace here.
3. Bullying in the workplace
From time to time, employers may have to deal with complaints of bullying in the workplace. Most employers will have a procedure in place to deal with such complaints fairly and appropriately. This New Year, employers should bear in mind the landmark decision in Ruffley v The Board of Management of St. Anne’s School, in which the Supreme Court provided some helpful guidance for employers as to what type of behaviour can constitute bullying in the workplace. While this is not the first case on bullying to come before the Supreme Court, there has been some uncertainty about where the boundary lies between treatment in the workplace which an employee finds unfavourable and treatment which constitutes bullying. The Supreme Court confirmed the definition of workplace bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and / or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work. We looked at the Ruffley case in our article here.
4. Workplace investigations
In the case of Michael Lyons v Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board, the High Court found there was a right to cross examination and legal representation on the particular facts where Michael Lyons was facing the possibility of the loss of his employment and where findings had been made against him. However, an employer may still possibly restrict legal representation outside of cross examination within a fact finding process that may lead to termination. Where an employee is facing a sanction short of dismissal, they may not be entitled to legal representation. We looked at the Lyons case in our article here.
5. Retirement age
Enforced retirement from employment is increasingly being litigated between employees and employers and we expect that trend to continue in 2018. There is no statutory compulsory retirement age in the private sector in Ireland. In the public service the mandatory retirement age is set at the age of 65 for those recruited before 2004. The government recently announced that public servants will be permitted to work to the age of 70 under new proposed legislation. We looked at what employers need to know about compulsory employment retirement in our recent article here.
6. The General Data Protection Regulation (The GDPR)
The GDPR comes into effect on 25 May 2018. For processing of personal data to be lawful under the GDPR, employers need to identify and document their lawful basis for the processing. We look at how employers should have a legitimate interest for data processing at work and not just seek to rely on employee consent in our recent article here.